Two teams chasing the Boston Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference will square off Thursday in Toronto when the short-handed Raptors (28-11) host the Cleveland Cavaliers (26-14) as small home underdogs.
Toronto is expected to be without starting point guard Kyle Lowry due to a lingering back injury and forward Serge Ibaka after he was suspended for exchanging punches with James Johnson of the Miami Heat in Tuesday's 90-89 home loss.
Point spread: The Cavaliers opened as three-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. (Line updates and matchup report)
Why the Cavaliers can cover the spread
The Cavaliers will at least be at full strength and dodged a suspension for point guard Isaiah Thomas, who was fined $20,000 instead for striking Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 127-99 road loss on Monday.
They should also be highly motivated to rebound from the rout against a Raptors team 2.5 games ahead of them in the standings. Cleveland has won the past four meetings versus Toronto, along with nine of the last 10 (7-2-1 against the spread), according to the OddsShark NBA Database.
Why the Raptors can cover the spread
The Raptors have been one of the best home teams in the league this season, going 14-2 straight up (9-7 ATS). They are coming off one of the two losses and had not dropped a game at Air Canada Centre before that since November 5.
The setback to Miami also snapped a five-game winning streak for Toronto, with leading scorer DeMar DeRozan averaging 33.4 points during that stretch. DeRozan also totaled 25 points and six assists against the Heat, and he remains a tough matchup for the Cavaliers.
Smart betting pick
Like Thomas, DeRozan also avoided a suspension for his role in a separate incident with Goran Dragic on Monday, but he still got fined $25,000 by the NBA. He will need to be at his best here in order to keep the Raptors in this game, especially with Lowry and Ibaka out.
That said, do not expect much defense from either team in this showdown, as the over has cashed in three of the previous four meetings along with five of seven.
NBA betting trends
Cleveland is 1-8 ATS in its last nine games.
Cleveland is 0-5 ATS in its last five games on the road.
The total has gone over in four of Toronto's last five games.
All NBA odds and betting trends courtesy of Bleacher Report's official odds partner, OddsShark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and the OddsShark YouTube page for picks and analysis, or download the free odds tracker app.