The Cleveland Cavaliers (30-20) take on the surging Oklahoma City Thunder (23-25) Friday night. Donovan Mitchell is doubtful while Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are out. For the Thunder, they will be without Luguentz Dort, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Aleksej Pokusevski.
Can the Thunder avenge their earlier 110-102 December loss to the Cavaliers (who didn’t have Mitchell)? Odds, predictions, key matchups, and starting lineup are below.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Betting Odds
Oklahoma City is slightly favored as the spread is -1 with a -120 moneyline. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s moneyline can be found at +105. Based on these lines, it appears Mitchell won’t play because I find it hard to believe a Thunder team sans Dort would be favored otherwise. The Cavaliers also start a three-game stretch at home on Sunday, so they may elect for Mitchell to return then.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Prediction
I’m assuming Mitchell won’t play but still taking Cleveland +1.5 and their +105 moneyline.
Although it is a back-to-back, the Cavaliers are 5-2 this season on the second night. One of those wins was a 110-102 win over the Thunder with Mitchell, Love, Rubio, and Wade out. Plus, Cleveland’s main pieces topped out at 34 minutes last night because they managed to dispatch a floundering Rockets squad quickly.
The Thunder thrive through dribble penetration and attacking the basket; they easily lead in drives per game and rank 2nd in finishing at the rim frequency. When opponents are able to deter a portion of their rim pressure and contest well, Oklahoma City’s offense often becomes stagnant and relies on poor shot quality looks.
The Cavaliers definitely qualify because they trot out a pair of defensive-oriented seven footers with enormous wingspans. Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are a nightmare for slashers because they contest hard and flawlessly rotate from the weak side. If a team manages to lure one away from the action, the other is there in a flash to erase any advantage.
Meanwhile, Cleveland’s perimeter defense has vastly improved. Okoro is the defensive assassin who guards the best player, but Garland and LeVert are playing at a high level. The following vital perimeter defense categories per BBall Index display their proficiency.
On offense, Cleveland will definitely feel the absence of Mitchell, Love, and Rubio. However, Garland (21.8 PPG, 40 3PT%) is a dynamic scorer who dominates running the pick and roll. Allen will pose a serious problem to the undersized Thunder as a roll man, and Mobley’s offensive aggression is rapidly increasing. In addition, Caris LeVert is prone to offensive explosions and provides another outlet as an off the dribble scorer.
While Oklahoma City’s defense is ferocious and a well-oiled machine, they won’t have screen navigating savant Lu Dort to exert his will against the pick and roll heavy Cavaliers. I also worry about their ability to limit Allen and Mobley considering the size discrepancy.
Overall, I believe the Cavaliers – who rank 2nd in Adjusted Defensive ShotQuality – win a very close game on the back of their defense and slow, grinding pace. It will come down to the last two minutes, and the Cavaliers will get enough stops to eke out a road win.
- Cavaliers are 5-13-2 ATS in their last 20 road games
- Under is 5-2 in Cavaliers last 7 overall
- Thunder are 8-1-1 ATS in their last 10 games overall
- Under is 4-1 in Thunder last 5 overall
- Cavaliers are 3-1-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings in Oklahoma City
Which team will win the key matchups? Check out below for these vital battles.
Offensive Rebounding & Free Throws
The Thunder are 30th in opponent offensive rebound rate and 27th in opponent free throw rate. Both outcomes generate massive expected points per possession, and Cleveland can take advantage of it. Allen and Mobley crash the glass hard, and both should command free throws once the undersized Thunder foul in an attempt to stop the bigger duo. If Oklahoma City draws this battle, then they have a great chance to win. However, I don’t see them being able to match the Cavaliers in this department.
Caris LeVert Scoring
With Mitchell, Love, and Rubio out, Cleveland’s offense loses a plethora of scoring and playmaking. LeVert is inconsistent, but he’s capable of hitting tough shots and keeping the offense afloat when Garland rests. The best example of LeVert’s polarity is from a pair of games earlier this season. He scored 41 points on a 57/75/91 shooting split versus Boston’s elite defense. Two days later, LeVert scored 1 point on 0/9 from the field against the Knicks. If the Cavaliers are going to win, it’s essential LeVert scores 18+ points here on decent efficiency.
Cleveland Cavaliers Starting Lineup
Oklahoma City Thunder Starting Lineup
Cleveland Cavaliers Injuries: Donovan Mitchell (D), Kevin Love (O), Ricky Rubio (O), Dylan Windler (O)
Oklahoma City Thunder Injuries: Luguentz Dort (O), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (O), Aleksej Pokusevski (O), Chet Holmgren (O)