Cleveland Cavaliers: History in the Making?

by Al McMordie

On December 10, the Cleveland Cavaliers were a 2-point road favorite against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and were seeking their 10th straight point spread victory.  They got it, with a 123-106 win, and moved their season record (at that time) to 15-12 SU, and 21-6 ATS.  Immediately after the game, I received an email from a client, who wondered, 'Did I know that Cleveland was the hottest team in the league?'....with the implication that we shouldn't be going against such a team.  The answer to that question was (of course) "yes," as I was more aware than he ever could know about just how historically-well Cleveland was playing.

Cleveland's game vs. the T-Wolves was its 27th game of the season.  And going into that game, it had covered the point spread by an average of 7.59 ppg. To put that extreme success into perspective, consider that never in the past 32 seasons (which is as far back as my database goes) had a team covered the spread by at least 6.76 ppg at Game 27 forward!  The second-best was the 2007-08 Boston Celtics, who were 23-3 SU and 19-7 ATS, and covered the spread by 6.75 ppg through their first 26 games of that season.

The Celtics were a special team, and went on to win that season's NBA championship.  But they also leveled out (somewhat), with respect to the point spread, as they went 43-13 SU and 34-21-1 ATS, and covered the spread by "just" 2.09 ppg over their last 56 regular season games.  For the season, Boston finished 53-28-1 ATS, with a season point spread differential of +3.57.

With that history as a backdrop, I wrote on December 10 that, "[I]t's safe to say that the Cavs will come back down to Earth. If, for no other reason than that the oddsmakers will (and already have) made adjustments to their number."  But that was seven games ago.  And all Cleveland has done since then is go into overdrive, with a 6-1 SU/ATS record, and a +13.62 point spread differential!  The Cavaliers just blew out Toronto, 144-99, as a 9-point home favorite, for not only their highest-scoring, and biggest win of the season, but also their largest (36) point spread differential.  Prior to that game, Cleveland's biggest cover was by 29 points, when it upset Miami, 111-85, on December 1, as a 3-point road underdog.

So, the Cavaliers are clearly "history in the making."  Through 33 games, they are 20-13 SU, 26-7 ATS (.787), and have covered the point spread by an average of 9.28 ppg.  That 2007-08 Celtics team, which went 53-28-1 ATS (.654), holds the record for the best point spread performance for an 82-game regular season, while the 2009-10 Milwaukee Bucks rank second, at 52-28-2 ATS (.650).  Boston's +3.57 point spread differential also ranks first for an 82-game season, with the 2004-05 Chicago Bulls coming in second, at +3.25.  

Will J.B. Bickerstaff's young Cavaliers keep it up?  And can they do what the 2007-08 Celtics did, and go on to win an NBA Championship?  Certainly, they're an odds-on favorite to end the season with the best point spread differential on record in the NBA since 1990.  After all, if they have a +0.00 spread differential over their final 49 games, they will still finish with a season mark of +3.73, and top Boston's +3.57.  But they're unlikely to better the Celtics' 53-28-1 ATS record or win the NBA title.  But, after that 45-point shellacking of the Raptors, I sure wouldn't put it past them.

Good luck, as always...
Al McMordie

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