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The Daily Sweat: Upstart Cavaliers get a good test at home vs. Bucks

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If you expected the Cleveland Cavaliers to start fading, it hasn't happened yet.

The Cavs were off to one of the best starts in the NBA this season, especially against the spread, and then got even hotter the past couple weeks. Since Jan. 10, the Cavaliers are 7-1.

Nobody would have thought before the season that near the end of January the Cavs could be ahead of the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks in the standings. But with a win on Wednesday night over 30-19 Milwaukee, the 29-19 Cavaliers would take over the No. 4 seed in the East from the Bucks. Oddsmakers don't see the teams that evenly; the Cavaliers are 3.5-point home underdogs at BetMGM. There's no great reason to go against the Cavs, whose 29-18-1 record against the spread is tied for third in the NBA.

While the Bucks have been disappointing, especially on the road (13-11 record), Cleveland's rise has been a great, unexpected story. Darius Garland has made a nice leap, leading the team at 19.7 points per game. Forward Evan Mobley is the favorite to win Rookie of the Year at BetMGM (-225 odds) after a great few months to start his career.

The Cavs could be short in the frontcourt, which is bad news against Giannis Antetokounmpo. Lauri Markkanen is likely out for a while with a sprained ankle, and Jarrett Allen's status is unclear for Wednesday's game. Still, the Cavs have done well to navigate injuries this season.

The Cavs are one of a few young teams that have been much better than expected this season. A win over the Bucks would keep their hot streak going, and give their start even more legitimacy.

Evan Mobley of the Cavs is a big favorite to win NBA rookie of the year. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Evan Mobley of the Cavaliers is a big favorite to win NBA Rookie of the Year. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

Here's a first look at Wednesday's sports betting slate:

Any other big NBA games?

There's a showdown of two of the West's best teams when the Phoenix Suns battle the Utah Jazz, though injuries take a lot of shine off the game. The Jazz will be without Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, while the Suns have a few players expected to miss as well. The Suns are 3.5-point favorites, but it's best to check the late injury report before betting it.

There are 10 games in all on the NBA schedule. Another interesting matchup has the Denver Nuggets and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, who is playing very well again this season, against the struggling Brooklyn Nets. The Nets are dealing with injuries and are 1.5-point home underdogs against a 25-21 Nuggets team.

What else is on the schedule?

The best games in college basketball are from the Big East. Marquette, which is playing very well as of late, goes to New Jersey to take on Seton Hall. Marquette is a 5.5-point underdog, which seems high. Also, Providence takes on Xavier in the only game between two top-25 teams. Xavier is a hefty 8.5-point favorite.

Another interesting game that has a little bit of NCAA tournament bubble intrigue is Davidson, finally in the top 25 after a 16-2 start, against a VCU team that is on the wrong side of the bubble at 11-6 and could really use a big win to help its resume. Davidson is favored by 3.5.

There are also five games on the NHL schedule, including a potential Stanley Cup Final preview when the Boston Bruins face the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs have been dominant lately and are big -175 favorites. It's tempting to take the Bruins but hard to go against Colorado, which is on a seven-game winning streak.

What's the best bet?

I'll take Marquette. The Golden Eagles have won six in a row, including a resume-building win at Villanova. They seem to be over a midseason slump and the 5.5-point spread at Seton Hall is too high.

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