Wednesday, November 1
Washington Wizards +6 (2 Units)
The Washington Wizards kick off the season pretty much the same way they finished it in 2005...against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It took only 6 games for the Wizz to go crashing out of the 2005 NBA Playoffs against this Cleveland team and what I like about this season opening game for both teams is that the Wizards probably still have that loss fresh on their minds. What you have to realize about that series is that the Wizz lost three of those games by one point and this is an intense rivalry that should never have a spread this high unless someone significant is injured. Eddie Jordan was talking about the kind of defense he wants his team to play this season and how he hade to make some changed because he couldn't bare to watch the way some of guys were 'D'eeing it up. He is going to go with the lock-down, man-to-man, half-court 'D which should allow guys like Caron Butler, Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamieson to pick a lot more pockets than usual. The key to the game tonight for the Wizards will be to force the Cavaliers to make a lot of mistakes and that is something Eddie Jordan has never had a problem with against the Cavs. Butler is averaging 1.8 steals per game against the Cavs and he should be able to harass Lebron who is turning the ball over 3.4 times per game against Washington. The Wizards have to be agressive with Lebron, they can't just let him take the rock to the hoop and drop two whenver he wants. There is a great chance that both Butler and Arenas play almost this entire game. I also really like the addition of Shooting Guard Deshawn Stevenson who if given the chance, can really shoot the lights out. He will obviously share time with Antonio Daniels which gives the Wizz a lot of fire power if Arenas and Butler don't have the looks they are looking for. Big boy Etan Thomas will start on the inside and since the Wizards have not had to make many changes from last year's roster, a lot of these players have already played together which makes it a whole lot easier. The Wizards are 13-4 in their last 17 regular season games against Cleveland. The points are just too much for a National TV game.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are back but are they in shape. We all know about Gilbert Arenas getting his ass snubbed for Team USA and there is really no telling who he is going to take it out on first. As for the Cavs, Lebron was on team USA and could quite possibly have some FIBA hangover in his opening game but the rest of the Cleveland team did not participate. I know it looks easy to take Lebron James on ESPN on a Wednesday Night with a bunch of other games lined up but the line is too high for two teams who always go at each other with everything they have. This game should definitely be high scoring but the question remains, will both teams come out and find their groove early or will one team pull away with a big lead only to blow all their fumes late and force this into overtime? Who knows. What I do know is that if the Cavaliers don't come ready for this game, they are going to lose. Gilbert Arenas is playing with a chip on his shoulder and the Wizards have some new defensive approaches that could confuse the Cavaliers early. Illgauskas is the key player in this game. There is word that his knee won't hold up and that he won't be playing in this game which would not be good for Cleveland. In a matchup that features several sharp shooters on both sides of the ball, the big men inside are going to play an even bigger role than usual which is where they need their big man. Well I'm not sure if he is playing or not tonight but I do know that if he's out, Washington has to use both Thomas and Brandon Haywood early to force Cleveland to start defending the inside with undersized players which should open things up for Butler, Stevenson and/or Arenas to shoot the lights out. Cleveland is going to be a good team this season, I'm just not sure when that all starts.
Vegas knows a lot of people have money on this game because it's the first of two National TV games on ESPN tonight. The line is not where it should be considering all the intangible and variable factors attached to this game but much like last season, the betting public is giving Lebron and his friends too much love in a game that almost always comes down to the wire.
Trend of the Game:
Washington is 8-1 ATS in their last nine games as underdogs of 5 to 10.5 points.
Washington 99, Cleveland 97