The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors face heavy competition as conference race heats up.
The Cleveland Cavaliers lost again on Monday, getting blown out 103-74 by the San Antonio Spurs as five-point road underdogs to fall out of first place in the Eastern Conference.
While the defending champion Cavaliers are still heavy -300 favorites (bet $300 to win $100) on the odds to win the Eastern Conference for the third straight year at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, they will need to make improvements soon if they are going to cash tickets for their backers at the end of the postseason.
Cleveland has failed to cover the spread in six of seven games (going 3-4 straight up) heading into Thursday’s road matchup with the Chicago Bulls. The Cavs saw LeBron James exit in the third quarter at San Antonio after taking an elbow to the back, and their hopes of repeating as champs depend on his health and that of his teammates.
The Boston Celtics pulled ahead of Cleveland for the No. 1 seed in the East and look to be a solid bet at +500 to dethrone James & Co. The Celtics are riding a four-game winning streak and have positioned themselves nicely to win the conference, as five of their last eight games are at home, including a big showdown with the Cavs on April 5.
The only other teams in the East that could possibly upset Cleveland and/or Boston are the Washington Wizards (+1000) and Toronto Raptors (+1200). The Wizards just routed the Cavs 127-115 as six-point road dogs last Saturday, and the Raptors took them to six games in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals before bowing out of the playoffs.
In the West it is essentially a two-team race between the Spurs and the Golden State Warriors for the league’s best record. Golden State remains the solid favorite on the odds to win the Western Conference for the third season in a row at -220 with San Antonio right behind at +325.
The Spurs are still trying to catch the Warriors for the top seed in the West and have already clinched the tie-breaker by winning the regular-season series.
The Houston Rockets (+750) are an interesting sleeper choice to upset both teams though as the likely third seed in the conference. James Harden, the favorite on the NBA MVP odds, has been a matchup nightmare for Houston’s opponents all year in his new role of point guard, although Golden State and San Antonio have each found ways to contain him.