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Is It Safe to Bet on The Cavaliers in Game 1?
Game 1 will be a tight contest
By Liam Davis
All bets brought to you by Topbet.
Boston Celtics (+4) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (-4)
This line ranks among the most difficult of any single game this postseason.
On the one hand, the Cleveland Cavaliers have absolutely destroyed their competition of late. They are first in points scored per 100 possessions, fourth in points allowed per 100 possessions and winners of their first eight postseason tilts. Their average margin of victory thus far is a commanding 9.6 points, and 15.3 points over their last four games.
Should we really expect them to slow down now?
On the other hand, they haven't played since May 7—10 days ago. Rust is a real threat, one LeBron James fully admitted to worrying about ahead of Game 1.
That the Boston Celtics are coming off a seven-game series with the Washington Wizards should technically hurt them, since they've only had a day off in between the second round and Eastern Conference Finals. At the same time, they're also fresher and likely looser than the Cavaliers. I mean, Cleveland's training staff actually needed to figure out what to do with its players over this last week-and-a-half.
We also have to take into consideration that the Cavaliers caught a run of luck in the second round. Kyle Lowry was injured for more than half the series, rendering the Toronto Raptors that much easier to defend and score on. His absence didn't shift the outcome of the entire set; the Raptors were always going to lose. But the Cavaliers' margin of victory was, to some extent, certainly inflated as a result.
After all, Cleveland struggled to put the Indiana Pacers away through most of the first round. That series was decided by just 16 points—an unfathomably small margin considering it ended in a sweep.
The Celtics are much more likely to throw the Cavaliers for a whirl than anyone else they've faced to date. Not only are they fully healthy, but there is strength in their three-point volume. Only the Houston Rockets, now watching from home, have jacked more treys per 100 possessions.
The issue, of course, is that the Cavaliers, despite launching fewer triples per 100 possessions, are making more. But the Celtics' defense is the best they've faced. They're third for the playoffs in points allowed per 100 possessions after going up against a streaky-hot Chicago Bulls squad and potent, albeit top-heavy, Wizards unit. Of the four remaining teams, the Golden State Warriors are the only one with a better defensive rating.
For some reason, even with LeBron James playing out of his mind, this just feels like a trap game for Cleveland—a one-off affair, similar to regular-season meetings in January, during which it'll be susceptible to protracted offensive slumps and a defense that meets its maker in Boston's offense.
The Celtics aren't going to earn the benefit of the doubt for many games, particularly after they were annihilated by the Cavaliers at the end of the year, on April 5. But Game 1, from we're standing, is an exception—a risk worth taking.
The Pick: Boston Celtics (+4)
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