Bucks at Cavaliers – NBA Pick for March 19th

by Taylor Smith
on March 19, 2018
Milwaukee Bucks (+125)
Cleveland Cavaliers (-145)
Total: 224
All odds referenced in this article were taken from Bovada at 12 pm on March 19, 2018. Odds may have changed since the time of this writing.

We got some unexpected huge news on Monday morning when the Cavaliers announced that head coach Ty Lue will be taking an indefinite leave of absence starting immediately in order to deal with a health concern. Lue has left numerous games already this season early due to some sort of physical issue. It sounds as though the rigors of this season have taken their toll. We don’t know whether he’ll come back at all this season, but here’s hoping he can sort things through and return sooner than later.

In the meantime, Larry Drew will coach LeBron James and co. Drew hasn’t been a head coach in the league since an unremarkable stretch in charge of the Hawks a few years ago, but he’s one of the more well thought-of assistants in the league.

There’s no telling how Drew’s rotations will differ from Lue’s, if at all. The Cavaliers are still short-handed tonight, as Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman and Rodney Hood are still sidelined. However, they may get a boost with Kevin Love having been upgraded to questionable. Love has missed the last several weeks with a broken hand. Kyle Korver is questionable, too.

Regardless of whether Love and/or Korver return to the lineup, the Cavs’ chances of making any headway in the standings lie on the broad shoulders of James. Cleveland has inched its way to third in the East, but they’re only a half-game up on both Indiana and Washington. Tonight’s opponent, the Bucks, is just 2.5 games adrift of third.

Even in his 15th season in the league, LeBron has shown no signs of slowing down. If anything, it seems like he’s getting stronger. The 33-year-old is putting up arguably the finest statistical campaign of his career, which is incredible considering he’s arguably the greatest player of all-time.

Over his last 5 games, James is averaging 29 points, 11.8 rebounds, 8.4 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.8 steals per game. He’s also shot better than 53 percent from the floor. On the season, he’s averaging 27 points, 9 assists and 8.6 rebounds per game. It’s amazing what he’s doing given the mileage on his body at this point.

The Cavs’ starters for their last game were James, Jose Calderon, George Hill, Jeff Green and Ante Zizic. Beyond James, that’s obviously not a murderer’s row. The return of Love is hugely important as the team gears up for the postseason.

As for Milwaukee, the Bucks have won 3 of their last 4 overall as they’ve made the most of a cushy schedule. The wins came over the Knicks, Grizzlies and Hawks, while the loss came at the hands of the lowly Magic. Things won’t get easy from here, though, as Milwaukee’s upcoming schedule is as follows: at Cavs, vs. Clippers, at Bulls, vs Spurs, at Clippers, at Warriors, at Lakers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was an early-season MVP candidate. While he’s since fallen behind guys like James Harden, LeBron and Anthony Davis, the Greek Freak is still putting up tremendous numbers. He led the Bucks with 33 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks in a monstrous effort in the win over Atlanta last time out. On the year, the All-Star is averaging 27.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, nearly 5 assists and over a block per game. Those are LeBronian numbers.

This will be the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Central Division rivals, with Cleveland having won 2 of the previous 3 encounters. Of course, we can take those previous games with a grain of salt, as each of the 3 came before the Cavs completely reshaped their roster at the trade deadline. The first 2 also came before the Bucks acquired Eric Bledsoe.

The Cavs are a hard team to trust, but a lot will hinge upon whether Love is able to return. If he comes back, I like the Cavs to use that momentum and cover the spread here. If Love remains sidelined, I think Milwaukee has an excellent chance at winning this game outright. As such, they’re a tremendous underdog value here.

It’s simple. Go with Cleveland to cover if Love suits up. If Love is out, side with the visiting Bucks.

Pick: Cleveland -3

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