NBA: Cavs can edge out Wizards

NBA: Cavs can edge out Wizards

The last time the Cleveland Cavaliers were in Washington it was to celebrate. They met Barack Obama to mark their 2016 NBA Championship and then went on to defeat the Wizards the following night.

They go back to the DC on Monday night with plenty different and plenty to ponder though.

JR Smith is out until the play-offs and his indirect replacement, Kyle Korver, is still adapting to life in Wine and Gold. With no Smith, three-point shooting and floor spacing has taken a hit, as has the defence.

LeBron James has repeatedly called for a playmaker to be added to the roster, something that has yet to materialise, and results have been mixed at best despite the best efforts of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

January was the worst of James’ career, with chastening losses to the Golden State Warriors, the Sacramento Kings and a New Orleans Pelicans side missing Anthony Davis adding to the angst.

Conversely the Wizards have won seven in a row. John Wall scored 24 points to see off the Pelicans on Saturday and posted up 33 more in victory over the Lakers on Thursday. With Bradley Beal also scoring well – the shooting guard averaging 21.8 points per game, five more than his career average – the Cavs have a real task on their hands.

As a result, the champions carry some value. To win by 6-10 points – they beat the Knicks by seven on Saturday – they are 6/1 and to win by 11-15 they are 8/1.

Two of their last five wins have been by 12 and 15 points respectively – the Cavs seldom blow sides away, largely due to defensive problems caused by Smith’s prolonged absence.

Washington interest can be found in a scratch price of 87/100 or, in what is shaping to be a tight game, 23/4 for them to win by a 6-10 point margin.