I backed the Cleveland Cavaliers to go into TD Garden and get a win in game one of their Eastern Conference Finals series with the Boston Celtics. It didn’t come close to happening, as the Cavs got obliterated early and never recovered in a crushing loss.
The wizardry of Celtics head coach Brad Stevens continues to impress, while Marcus Morris and the rest of the Celtics contained King James, limiting him to just 15 points. The loss put Cleveland in a 1-0 hole and also dropped my NBA playoff picks record to 11-9-1.
Falling closer to .500 isn’t the plan tonight, so I’ll be taking advantage of playoff momentum and a favorable line for the Cavs.
The simple reality is I don’t think Boston wins this series and if they’re not going to, Cleveland has to avoid a 2-0 hole. Teams just don’t have a high success rate of getting out of holes like that in the playoffs, while the Cavs would still be stealing home court advantage by getting a win tonight.
Think about it; the Celtics are the higher seed and own the home court advantage right now. They were supposed to win that game.
Boston did send a strong message and they’re probably better than most people think, but I don’t see them winning again tonight. The only question is what betting angle NBA bettors should tackle:
Cleveland Cavaliers (+1, -110) @ Boston Celtics (-1, -110) Total: 204 (-110)
This is a virtual pick’em at Bovada and most NBA betting sites and I get why. Boston is already up 1-0 and it’s tough to see them winning here to go up 2-0 against a LeBron James-led team. As good as Boston looked in game one, they still have a lot of young players and in the past have fallen victim to the Cavs.
Cleveland took down an arguably much better Boston team 4-1 in this same setting a year ago and they also won the regular season series (2-1).
This series already feels a lot like the one between the Cavs and the Indiana Pacers. Many people felt Indy could give the Cavaliers a tough series, but few truly felt they’d get the job done and knock off Cleveland.
I think the same thing is happening here. Boston has a lot of versatile perimeter defenders to throw at James, they defend well as a team and they have a fairly dynamic offense. They’re dangerous – especially on their home floor – but they still lack high level playoff experience across the board. They also still aren’t the better team when you look at overall star talent.
The good news for the Cavs is they can chalk game one up as just a poor outing. James didn’t score the ball well, he turned the ball over seven times and outside of Kevin Love, nobody could make a shot. Cleveland’s offense just didn’t show up as a whole and a good outside shooting unit made just 15% of their long balls.
That won’t cut it on the road against the Celtics. That won’t cut it anywhere.
Cleveland still has the ability to attack the paint, set up their guys and hit those shots. I expect far more to fall in game two and much like James was in game two against the Pacers, he’s going to be ridiculously aggressive.
It’s true that Marcus Morris got the best of James in this one game, but to assume he’ll continue to stifle the best player in the world is a dangerous reach. James will be far better, he’ll be more controlled and this performance could end up being downright epic.
Boston did have their way with Cleveland’s defense, though. The Celtics shot 51% from the floor and were able to get inside the paint with ease. Cleveland’s shaky defense is going to need to be better and just showing up on offense won’t be enough.
Ultimately, I think James shows up big and while he’ll probably need a clutch moment or two, this stage is made for him to send the Cavs back home tied up at 1-1. Cleveland has also been amazing as underdogs against the spread all year. They’re 15-7 ATS as underdogs overall and own the NBA’s best mark (13-5) when Vegas doubts them on the road.
Cleveland played horribly and got housed in game one. There’s just no way LeBron James allows that to happen in what is probably a must-win setting. The best part? Bettors get the Cavs at -105 to get the win. You’re still only getting back what you put in, but it’s hard to beat that price for what looks to me like an obvious Cavs wins.
If you want to get really ambitious, you can bank on the Cavs coming out hot and beating an alternate +6.5 point spread (+250) at Bovada. I won’t quite vouch for that, but I love the Cavs here and that’s certainly a nice Moneyline to target if you agree.