Cavs mismatch leads off NBA slate

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The field heads into the far turn this week in the steeplechase that is the NBA’s regular season, and a few of the usual suspects still lead the way. But good battles abound among a good part of the field for playoff spots and seedings.

Best meets worst Wednesday night in the Association when the Cleveland Cavaliers, now suddenly without both Ilgauskas and Shaq in the middle, visit the New Jersey Nets (7:30 pm Eastern). Cleveland, an easy winner over New York Monday night, leads the Eastern Conference by six games over second-place Orlando, and owns a game and a half advantage over the Lakers in the race for the best record in the league. New Jersey, meanwhile, owns six wins on the season, one of which, surprisingly, came Saturday at Boston.

The Nets are a dismal 22-36 vs. the pointspreads this season. However, in the three previous meeting this season between these two teams, as underdogs of 14, 10, and 16 points, NJ is 3-0 ATS, losing to the Cavs by 10, eight, and seven points.

Also, as the Nets rank 30th in the league in scoring, they’ve gone 23-33 on the totals.

Two teams who’ve been struggling lately hook up when the Charlotte Bobcats visit the Boston Celtics (7:30 E Wednesday). Charlotte is tied with Miami for the eight spot in the East, but they’re only 4-8 over the last month. Boston, meanwhile, still leads the Atlantic Division by six games over second-place Toronto, but they’ve lost two straight games, and are only 13-13 this calendar year.

Boston has bounced the Bobcats in two earlier meetings this season, by scores of 92-59 and 108-90, but their 21-35 ATS mark is one of the worst in the league.

And in what sizes up to be good Western Conference shootout, the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder visit the Denver Nuggets (9 E Wednesday). OKC is 11-2 over its last 13 games, and owns the six spot in the West. The Thunder is also 35-23 vs. the numbers this season. Denver, on the other hand, is still the two seed in the West, but they’re only 6-6 over their last 12 games.

Thursday night the Lakers hit Miami to take on the streaky Heat in the opener of TNT’s doubleheader (8 E). And out in Arizona the spunky Phoenix Suns host the Utah Jazz in the TV nightcap (10:30 E).

The Lakers lead the West by 5.5 games over second-place Dallas, and, as mentioned above, they’re only a game and a half back of Cleveland in the overall league standings. Miami, meanwhile, has been running hot and cold; they lost five in a row at the beginning of February, then won five straight, and have now lost four more in a row.

Phoenix is 12-3 over its last 15 games, and owns the five spot in the West. The Suns are also 36-26 ATS this season. Utah has played its way into the four seed in the West, although they lost at home to the Clippers Monday night. The Jazz have also been one of the best bets in the league this season, going 36-21 vs. the pointspreads.

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