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Cavs vs. Magic NBA Preview (Jan. 29)

Cavs head to Orlando

Cleveland Cavaliers center Zydrunas Illgauskas could return to the lineup on Thursday against the Orlando Magic and it could be the betting key.

The 7’3” big man has missed the last 12 games with an ankle injury and the team has gone just 7-5 against the spread (ATS). For the season, the Cavs are just 9-6 ATS with ‘Z’ out of the lineup.

Contrast that with Cleveland’s stellar 20-8 ATS record with him, and you can see why bettors are constantly checking the latest injury report for this contest.

This Eastern Conference power matchup will begin at 8 pm ET on TNT followed by San Antonio at Phoenix. Get the latest odds for this game on our Live Odds page and don’t forget to check out our Betting Trends.

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Both teams have a lot to prove in this, the first meeting of the year between the squads. Orlando is coming off a 135-111 home blowout win over Indiana on Tuesday night. That was a much needed victory as the Magic entered off two-straight losses, one versus Miami and another against Boston.

The Celtics loss was really tough to swallow as Orlando needed to prove they were good enough and tough enough to beat the defending champs. Instead, Boston was the much more physical team, winning 90-80 as 4 ½-point dogs in Orlando.

Even Superman, Dwight Howard, failed to take off in that game as he was held to 11 points on just 4-10 shooting. Boston center Kendrick Perkins does a great job keeping his position in the paint and Illgauskas can also cause some problems for Howard due to his height advantage.

Cleveland’s last game was also Tuesday night, a ho-hum 117-110 home win over Sacramento as 13 ½-point chalk. There was a time earlier in the season when the Cavs were covering double-digit spreads with regularity, but the lack of their center seems to be finally catching up to them.

The return of “Z’ would mean that Anderson Varejao can go to the second unit where his energy and rebounding prowess are more effective. The Cavs are already shorthanded with shooting guard Delonte West sidelined which has forced Sasha Pavlovic into the starting five.

This is a huge game for Cleveland as well as they didn’t look good in losing at the L.A. Lakers in a recent four-game road trip. They also lost their only road game at Boston. Beating the Magic would prove that the Cavs can beat a Top 4 team on the road, and give them a psychological edge if they meet in the playoffs.

One final note: These are the two best teams in the entire NBA against the spread. Cleveland is 29-14 ATS on the year and Orlando is at 29-14-1 ATS.

Something has to give on Thursday night.

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