Cavaliers, with LeBron James and Kevin Love, favored by oddsmakers to win 2015 NBA title

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Now that the NBA deck has just about finished shuffling in what was an unusually exciting offseason, it’s time for the oddsmakers in Vegas to weigh in with who they believe has the best chance of taking home the Larry O’Brien trophy next June.

Not surprisingly, the Cleveland Cavaliers — fresh off of signing LeBron James in free agency, and trading for Kevin Love from the Timberwolves — land at the top of the list to win the 2015 NBA title.

Bovada lists Cleveland at 5/2 as the favorites, followed by the Spurs at 4/1, the Bulls at 11/2, and the Thunder at 6/1.

It’s worth noting that sports books don’t set these odds based on who they actually are predicting to win the NBA title; if that were the case, teams like the Spurs (who won it last year) and the Thunder (who have the reigning MVP and a core that’s been together for a few years) would have been much better choices.

The odds are based on where the money is anticipated to come in, and casual fans will be easily swayed by the media swarm surrounding LeBron and Love, thereby being more likely to throw a few bucks down just in case the Cavaliers are able to put things together perhaps more quickly than expected.

Future wagers like these are beyond silly, of course, because all it takes is one key injury over the next 10 months to throw everything into complete chaos. If you are inclined to give it a shot, you want to try to find as much value as possible — which makes San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and possibly even the Clippers (12/1) or Rockets (16/1) far better investments than the Cavaliers.

Bovada’s complete championship odds for all 30 teams are listed below.

Cleveland Cavaliers 5/2
San Antonio Spurs 4/1
Chicago Bulls 11/2
Oklahoma City Thunder 6/1
Los Angeles Clippers 12/1
Houston Rockets 16/1
Dallas Mavericks 18/1
Golden State Warriors 22/1
Washington Wizards 33/1
Indiana Pacers 40/1
Miami Heat 40/1
Portland Trailblazers 40/1
Memphis Grizzlies 50/1
New York Knicks 50/1
Toronto Raptors 50/1
Charlotte Hornets 66/1
Los Angeles Lakers 66/1
Brooklyn Nets 66/1
Atlanta Hawks 100/1
Boston Celtics 100/1
Denver Nuggets 100/1
New Orleans Pelicans 100/1
Phoenix Suns 100/1
Minnesota Timberwolves 150/1
Detroit Pistons 200/1
Orlando Magic 200/1
Sacramento Kings 250/1
Utah Jazz 250/1
Milwaukee Bucks 300/1
Philadelphia 76ers 300/1

Watch Giannis Antetokounmpo go off for 32 points, 13 boards, lead Bucks rout of Thunder

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 13 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks surged to a 24-point lead in the second quarter in a 133-86 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

The 47-point loss was the Thunder’s worst of the season.

Chris Paul scored 18 points for Oklahoma City.

Both teams were without their second-leading scorers. Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton was a late scratch with a sore neck. An ankle injury kept Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari out.

The Bucks had won four in a row and the Thunder had won five straight.

The Bucks built their second-quarter lead behind 14 second-quarter points from Antetokounmpo, seven from Donte DiVincenzo, who started in place of Middleton, and back-to-back 3-pointers from Wesley Matthews.

A key moment occurred late in the second period.

With Milwaukee leading, 54-43, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer got a technical foul after approaching a referee during a timeout with 3:43 left in the quarter. That was moments after Eric Bledsoe was called for a charging foul that irked Budenholzer. After that, the Bucks went on a 17-4 run and led 71-47 at halftime.

Milwaukee outrebounded Oklahoma City, 67-36.

The Bucks made a season-high 21 3-pointers. The Thunder were 6 for 35 on 3-pointers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo shrugs off James Harden dig: ‘I’m just trying to do my job’

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There is some meat to the James Harden/Giannis Antetokounmpo beef.

Harden was pissed Antetokounmpo won Most Valuable Player over him last year and vented about it. When it came to this year’s All-Star Game, captian Antetokounmpo drafted Kemba Walker over Harden while joking he wanted someone who’d pass. After his team lost the All-Star Game, Antetokounmpo said his team’s strategy was to get the ball to whomever Harden was guarding and attack.

Harden ramped up the skirmish of words Friday when speaking to Rachel Nichols of ESPN, saying:

“I wish I could just run, run and was 7-feet and run and just dunk. That takes no skill at all. I’ve got to actually learn how to play basketball and how to have skill.”

Antetokounmpo decided to let it die when ESPN asked pregame about what Harden said.

“I’m not the type of guy to take stabs at somebody. … I’m just trying to do my job which is win games and go back home to my family. At the end of the day, if that’s what he believes that’s what he believes. I can’t say anything about it. I’ve just got to keep being focused.”

If you’re circling dates on your calendar, March 25 is what you’re looking for, the day the Bucks host the Rockets.

Harden should believe he is the best player in the game — you don’t get to be where he is without that level of confidence. Antetokounmpo should believe the same thing about himself. We could say the same things about LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and a host of others. It’s part of what makes them great, and not a surprise.

If the MVP thing is eating at Harden he might not like this season’s outcome any better. While I haven’t done a poll, most voters I’ve spoken to have The Beard third behind Antetokounmpo and LeBron James. There’s still more than six weeks of basketball before votes are cast — and the Rockets as a team are surging — but right now, the Greek Freak looks like a repeat winner from what I am hearing.

Rockets protested game despite Tilman Fertitta’s dissent

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta talks big about his devotion to winning.

But when Houston had a chance to turn a loss into a victory by protesting due to an uncounted James Harden dunk, Fertitta balked.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“That’s my basketball people who got mad at ’em. Honestly, I don’t think we should have filed the protest because honestly we blew the 22-point lead. But if something is important to my players and basketball ops people, I give them a lot of leeway.”

I wonder whether Fertitta would have publicly shared his stance if the protest succeeded. I also wonder whether how supported Fertitta’s basketball employees feel considering he’s publicly revealing that he wasn’t on their side.

But this is actually one of the more encouraging stories of Fertitta’s ownership. He allowed room for debate. He listened to the other side. He posted the $10,000 protest fee.

It didn’t pay off this time, but that’s how good owners operate.

As expected, Rockets sign veteran Jeff Green for remainder of season

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Before they committed fully, Houston signed free agent Jeff Green to a 10-day contract. They just wanted to make sure the veteran forward was a fit in their small-ball system.

It turns out, he was a perfect fit.

Through four games, playing a little more than 19 minutes a game, Green averaged 9.8 points a game on a ridiculous 89.6 true shooting percentage. That’s not sustainable (he’s shooting 61.5 percent from three), but it was enough for the Rockets to sign Green for the remainder of the season, something the team announced Friday.

Green, at 6’8″, played on the wing most of his career. However, with the Rockets he backs up P.J. Tucker at center.

Green started the season a member of the Utah Jazz, but the fit there was not as clean. While he averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances, the Jazz ultimately waived him to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker.

This contract only runs through the end of this season, but the Rockets could re-sign Green for next season, if the sides agree this summer. For now, the focus is on the Rockets’ hot streak and building on that as the league moves toward the postseason.