NBA: Cavaliers vs. Warriors headlines Christmas Day slate

NBA: Cavaliers vs. Warriors headlines Christmas Day slate article feature image

Christmas Day brings friends, family and food comas together along with the usual splattering of high-profile basketball games.

You’ll be scratching your head as grandpa claims, “These guys would have got whopped back in my day.” Or, when LeBron James misses a jump shot, you’ll surely have a cousin mumble “Kobe would have hit that” under his breath.

The couch experts will be in your ear and, while they are unlikely to sway where you put your money, the eggnog might, so watch out.

It might be best to get your picks out of the way early starting with one game, in particular.

Cavaliers @ Warriors

With rumors of an early Steph Curry return circulating, the Warriors got the bad news out nice and early, which is a blessing for those optimistic DFS players.

Having gone 7-1 in his absence, they’ve fared fairly well after historically struggling without their All-Star point guard.

Tonight, the Warriors will miss Curry and what would have been an impossible matchup for Cavs starting point guard, Jose Calderon, to contain. Sports Insights has Curry as a player that contributes three points to the spread, and had he been available tonight, would have had the Warriors as heavy favorites.

Instead, the line is only -5, with the Warriors the favorite for the 20th time ahead of the 26th game between these two teams since Steve Kerr arrived in Golden State.

In the 19 previous times they’ve been favorites, the Warriors are 11-8 against the spread.

I like them to make it 12-8 tonight.

I pointed out how awful the Cavaliers are against the spread last week, but it seems the public is going to persist with what has been a losing formula so far this season. Cleveland is 11-21-1 against the spread to have punters down $1,070 on $100 bets every game this season.

The public gets excited and inflates the line, with tonight’s game being no different.

Despite being 7-13 straight up and 8-11-1 against the spread in their last 20 matchups with the Warriors, the Cavaliers are seeing plenty of action.

With 65 percent of spread tickets and 70 percent of the bets on the money line, the public still has faith in the Cavaliers, even with all the recent data suggesting they should go the other way.

This one is a game of matchups with Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James being the most important. It’s neck and neck, but if one of them is to be slowed down, it’s James.

Golden State’s ability to switch on almost anything has them much better equipped to limit LeBron’s output. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s 110.6 defensive rating is 26th in the league, and they are ranked 27th defending at the small-forward position.

Another area where Golden State could get a boost is in the play of Klay Thompson.

His shooting percentages have plummeted with Curry out.

The Cavaliers, though, allow opposing teams to shoot 37.1 percent from 3-point-land (23rd) with their perimeter defense having been an issue all season.

It’s going to be a thriller, but with Durant given a license to go with Curry out, Thompson facing a subpar perimeter defense, and Cleveland’s terrible record against the spread, I like the Warriors in this one.

Pick: Warriors -5

Remaining Games:

76ers @ Knicks [-3]

  • 76ers have lost five games in a row straight up
  • 76ers have failed to cover the spread in their last five games
  • Knicks are 8-1 against the spread as a favorite

Wizards @ Celtics [-4.5]

  • Celtics have the best record against the spread, but are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games
  • Wizards are 16-17 against the spread, but 8-3 as an underdog

Rockets [-2] @ Thunder

  • Thunder have won four games in a row
  • Thunder’s 103.7 defensive rating ranks third in the NBA
  • Thunder cover the spread 36.4 percent of games (27th)
  • Rockets lead the league in scoring (115.4 ppg)
  • Rockets margin of victory is 9.9 (first)

Timberwolves [-4.5] @ Lakers

  • Lakers are first in the league in pace (102.2 possessions per 48 minutes)
  • Timberwolves are 20th in pace (95.8)
  • Timberwolves have a 112 offensive rating (fifth) and 110.2 defensive rating (25th)
  • Lakers have a 102.9 defensive rating (28th) and 105.6 defensive rating (seventh)

All stats provided by Basketball-Reference and NBA Stats as of 12/25

All odds provided by William Hill as of 12/25

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