NBA Odds, Picks, Predictions: Cavaliers vs Jazz Betting Preview
- The Utah Jazz host the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday in a highly anticipated return for Donovan Mitchell.
- The Cavaliers opened as 3.5-point favorites before the spread settled at -2.5.
- Malik Smith breaks down the matchup and explains why he's betting a Mitchell player prop.
Cavaliers vs. Jazz Odds
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
For most players on the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tuesday will be another routine night — the 41st game of a very long 82 game season.
It's safe to assume, however, that Donovan Mitchell had Jan. 10 circled on his calendar ever since he was traded. It will be Mitchell's first trip back Utah to face his former Jazz teammates and their raucous fans.
This marks the third game of a five-game Western Conference road trip for the Cavaliers. It's also the first home game for the Jazz, who are in the midst of a 1-7 stretch.
Here's a look at the Cavaliers vs. Jazz odds along with a pick and prediction in the matchup.
The Cavaliers have struggled to cover the spread on the road this season. At 6-12-1 ATS, only the Mavericks and Warriors have been less profitable in this spot. Prior to their road win against the Phoenix Suns Sunday, the Cavaliers were 2-5 straight up and 0-6-1 ATS and as road favorites, according to Bet Labs. This road trip will test whether the Cavs can carry their strong play on the road.
Overall, this team has proven that they are on the cusp of the group of contenders in the Eastern Conference. According to Dunks And Threes, the Cavs rank third in Adjusted Net Rating (+4.9) and second in Adjusted Defensive Rating.
Their defense is stifling inside the arc — they rank fourth in midrange defense (40.1%) and eighth in rim defense, according to Cleaning the Glass. That's in large part due to their star defensive duo, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.
The Cavaliers like to keep things in the half court and while they allow a high percentage of plays in transition (16.1%), they are just above league average in terms of points allowed per 100 on those plays.
The Cleveland offense is heavily reliant on Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. When Mitchell is on the floor, he accounts for 34.4% of the Cavaliers' points and Garland accounts for 26.2% when he's on the floor. The next-closest player is Kevin Love at 18.7%. It makes sense from that perspective why Mitchell needed to score 71 against the Chicago Bulls last week just to get the win, as Garland was sidelined with a hand injury.
With both guys back in the fold, the offense should have more balance. This season, they rank just outside the top-10 in frequency at the rim (12th), midrange (13th) and above the break 3s (13th) and are top-10 in accuracy at the rim (ninth, 68.3%) and on the break (10th, 36.6%).
There are no moral victories in sports, but what the Jazz have done this season is certainly impressive. Sure, they lost two all-stars and were essentially forgotten about leading up to the season, but it seemed like no one told the Jazz they were supposed to be tanking to start the season. They were leading the Western Conference as recently as Nov. 21 and they went into Christmas three games over .500.
Then, things started to shift for the NBA's feel good story. They have since fallen outside of the play-in race during the skid, all eight games featured clutch-time minutes (game within five points in the last five minutes) and they were only able to outlast the Houston Rockets.
The Jazz have a defense problem: They generally don't play any and when they do it isn't very good. That may seem harsh for a team that had the some of the lowest expectations in the league entering the season, but now that they aren't catching teams by surprise, their flaws are being laid bare every night.
This season, the Jazz rank 27th in defense, according to Cleaning the Glass. Without their former defensive anchor Rudy Gobert in the paint, the Jazz are middle of the pack when it comes to defending the paint, and bottom-five at defending midrange shots. They do a good job of defending corner 3-pointers, but are also middle of the pack defending above the break 3s, an area where the Cavs (specifically Mitchell) are dominant.
On offense, the Jazz launch a lot of 3s — fourth-highest frequency in the NBA — and hit them at an above-average clip. That could keep them in this game as the Cavaliers don't defend the perimeter well.
The last time these two teams met it was a rout in Cleveland and the Jazz didn't even crack 100 points. The total opened at 227.5 and despite dipping by a point, 79% of the bets are being wagered on the over. I like the potential for a high-scoring game, but considering how good the Cavaliers can be on defense when they are clicking, I'll pass on betting it.
The Cavaliers are clearly the better team and I think they'll cover the spread despite their issues as road favorites, but this game is about Mitchell's return, and that's where my bet is focused.
As I noted above, the Jazz try to limit 3s in the corners, but for all other 3s, they are average. Mitchell feasts on 3s above the breaks and among players who attempt 5.0 such shots per game, His 41.3% rate in that area ranks fifth-best in the NBA.
Mitchell's 3-point prop is set at 3.5, a number he has topped in 17 of his 36 games this season, including the previous matchup with the Jazz. However, the over is plus-money and it's too tempting not to bet Mitchell to go over in this spot. I would play this number down to +110.