Cavs-Celts Game 1
Exec Summary: The bookmakers hung a very sharp line at Cavs -3.5 but left some room over the total in the opening game of this series that features numerous mismatches and defensive holes that can be exploited. Cavs likely pull out a hard fought win but stay within the number. A high scoring first three quarters turns into a bit of a sweat late as the game winds down and Kyrie wins it with a go-ahead 3 at the buzzer 114–111.
A lot has been made about the amount of rest the Cavs have gotten following their second consecutive sweep of the 2017 playoffs and that may have depressed the total a bit because it was very surprising to see a line for this game under 220 points. Count me among the few who do not subscribe to the “rust” angle in regards to the Cavaliers. This is a team that thrives on long rest having scored 116 in Game 1 vs the Raptors in the semi-finals and scoring 115 in Game 1 of the ECF in 2016 after a similar extended rest situation. The comparison to the Warriors flat start in Game 1 vs the Spurs on Sunday is not valid because that was a product of defensive scheming that worked brilliantly until Kawhi was taken out of the game.
For those who might wonder then why this doesn’t lend itself to an angle on backing the Cavs have a valid question. The Cavs (and LeBron James, in general) have historically owned the Celtics since the departure of big three many years ago. The Cavs have a better team than in 2016, having complimented their dynamic attack with Kyle Korver’s outstanding shooting and solid bench contributions. Clearly expecting the Cavs to advance to the Finals (many parlays in fact depend on this outcome), however you obviously can’t win four games in one night, and the first game of series is likely to be relatively tight thanks to the Celtics current form and their home court advantage.
The over is the angle of choice then tonight and for anyone who has watched the Eastern Conference Playoffs to this point, this should feel like a comfortable spot. The Cavs are scoring an average of 115 points per game this offseason through 8 games played against reasonable defensive teams in Indiana and Toronto. The Celtics just finished a series which saw them score an average of 123 points in four home games, thanks in large part to incredible shooting in the TD Garden (with it’s oh-so-soft rims). Finally, nothing about this series gives any indication that defense will be a priority (or capability) for either team; clear mismatches exist for both squads and ample opportunity to exploit these shortcomings will make scoring outside of crunch time look easy. Boston will likely struggle to secure defensive rebounds giving the Cavs plenty of second chance opportunities. Cleveland will have its hands full defending the waves of shooters around the perimeter for the Celtics and we have yet to see the Cavs make defensive adjustments to stop Brad Stevens ingenuity on offense. Lastly, the pace that each team plays is among the highest in the Association suggesting it will take a horrific shooting night to keep the points off the board. We’ll take advantage of these numbers tonight because Game 2 we’ll likely see a total in the 225 range. Pulling for the Celtics tonight to make this a fun series, if the Boys in Green can win Games 1 and 2 at home, who knows?!
Three pre-game plays for tonight:
BOS 1Q o56½ +110
BOS 1H o111½ +105
BOS FG o220½ +103