The Cleveland Cavaliers made me look smart on Friday night, as they made good on a -7 spread and forced a game seven against the Boston Celtics. While it was fun to get a win and up my NBA playoff picks record to 13-12-1, finishing this series could be tough.
One huge issue with game seven is the absence of star forward, Kevin Love.
Love exited a huge game six with a head injury and after entering concussion protocol, has officially been ruled out for the decisive game at TD Garden on Sunday.
LeBron James did a lot of the heavy lifting in a crazy 46-point performance in game six and if he’s going to reach the NBA Finals for an eighth consecutive time, he’ll probably have to be even better.
Boston has the advantage at home (they haven’t lost here yet in the playoffs), but they don’t have Kyrie Irving or the closing experience in an Eastern Conference Finals. Fortunately Vegas is taking it easy on us after a roller coaster series and you’re dealing with a -2.5 spread in favor of the Celtics.
The Celtics being on their own turf is part of that and Love’s absence also plays a big hand. Ultimately, though, bettors get the Cavs as +2.5 underdogs and I’m not sure I’ve seen value this good in the playoffs in a while.
Cleveland Cavaliers (+2.5, -110) @ Boston Celtics (-2.5, -135) Total: 199 (-115/-105)
I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. I know the Cavs have to win on the road and they have to do it without Love, but I just don’t see them losing this game.
The +2.5 point spread is the safe play at -110 in a game that should probably still be close, but Cleveland as a +110 road dog is the bet I covet.
The main reason I like the Cavs here is LeBron James just won’t be denied.
We’ve seen it in this series and really throughout the playoffs. Love being out with a concussion is the cherry on top for a guy that has seriously been carrying this team for the majority of their postseason run.
It’s gotten so bad that the team has given up on mid-season trade acquisitions like Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson for key roles. Losing Love obviously hurts, but if that is your only ammo for James going down on Sunday, you may want to reload.
Boston has been in a similar situation all year. They lost Gordon Hayward in his Celtics debut and Kyrie Irving hasn’t been available for a single playoff game.
The NBA is often about narratives. King James has been carrying this team all year and whether it’s been a clutch late-game moment or just a huge all-around effort, he’s been the sole reason why this team is again inches from a Finals appearance.
Making the NBA Finals is all LeBron James knows and a young Celtics team isn’t going to stop him this year. Maybe Boston finally gets past Cleveland next year when Hayward and Irving are healthy, but this is as far as they go this season.
Cleveland does some of their best work when Vegas doubts them and this is the last spot to bet against LeBron James. To put it simply, the Cavs are 15-9 ATS as underdogs and 13-7 as road dogs. I’m not betting against that data on Sunday and I surely won’t be betting against King James.
You can roll with the +2.5 spread as a safer bet, but I love the value associated with the Cavs at +110 today.