Should Bettors Fade the Cavs in Nationally Televised Games?

Should Bettors Fade the Cavs in Nationally Televised Games? article feature image
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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets made 19 three-pointers in a 120-88 blowout of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night. It was another embarrassing loss for the Cavs on national television.

LeBron & Co. are 0-8 straight-up and against the spread in network broadcasts since losing to the Golden State Warriors on Christmas. The matchups haven’t been close with the team losing by an average of 17 points.

LeBron told reporters after Saturday’s loss, “they should take us off every nationally-televised game for the rest of the season.” Unfortunately for James, the Cavs have 13 more contests in primetime, including a home game on Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves on ESPN.

Given the team’s recent struggles, should bettors fade the Cavs on national TV?

First, drawing conclusions from an eight-game sample is dangerous for your bankroll.  I looked at how Cleveland performed in nationally broadcast games since LeBron came home. That gives us a 92-game regular season sample since 2014-15.

Second, in order to place a wager, we need a theory as to why the Cavs would struggle on national TV. My working hypothesis: Cleveland is overvalued by the public against quality opponents. Since 2014-15, the Cavaliers have received 50% or more of spread bets in 90.6% of regular season games, which leads to inflated lines. Good teams, which are often matched up against the Cavs in these broadcast games, should have an ATS advantage when receiving an extra half point or more. Does the data support my idea?

In the previous 84 games before the eight-game losing streak, Cleveland was 49-35 (58.3%) straight-up and 45-39 (53.6%) ATS on national television. In seven of those games, LeBron didn’t play. If we remove those from our sample, Cleveland went 49-28 (63.6%) straight-up and 45-32 (58.4%) ATS on broadcast TV.

The data does not support my theory. While the Cavs have struggled lately in nationally-televised games, LeBron had been a good bet with a national audience since coming back to Cleveland.

Gamblers looking to fade the Cavs on Wednesday might do so because the team is on a back-to-back or the Timberwolves are one of the best squads in the league. It shouldn’t be because Cleveland has been struggling on national TV.

Photo via Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports