#722 Boston Celticsvs.#721 Cleveland Cavaliers
Written by Chris Kubala
Cleveland Cavaliers (8-0 SU, 5-2-1 ATS, 6-2 O/U) vs. Boston Celtics (8-5 SU, 9-4 ATS, 8-5 O/U)
NBA: Wednesday, May 17, 2017, TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, 8 pm ET
Line: Cleveland -4; Over/Under: 220
The Eastern Conference Finals get underway in Beantown. The second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, who are the defending champs, travel to visit the top-seeded Boston Celtics Wednesday night in Game 1 of their best of seven series Wednesday night. Cleveland is well rested as they polished off the third-seeded Raptors in a sweep with a 109-102 road win in Game 4 of their series back on May 7. Boston went back and forth with the Wizards before picking up a 115-105 home win in Game 7 Monday to close out that series. The Celtics hold a 124-78 advantage in the all-time regular season series between the teams though Cleveland took three of four this season. Boston has won four of the six playoff series between the teams but holds a narrow 18-16 edge in head to head playoff victories.
Cleveland had another long layoff between the conclusion of their previous series and the start of this one, much as they did between the opening round and the conference semifinals. The question for the Cavaliers is how much rest is too much right now for the team. Cleveland took a 12 point halftime lead on the strength of a 33-21 advantage in the second quarter and withstood Toronto’s charges to put the game away in the final minutes. The Cavaliers shot 47.6 percent from the floor and went 16 of 41 from three point range in the game. LeBron James finished with 35 points, nine rebounds and six assists to lead Cleveland in the victory.
The Cavaliers come into this contest 2nd in the playoffs in scoring offense with 114.5 points per game. Cleveland is 10th in rebounding with 41.4 per contest and 6th in assists by handing out 21.5 per game. The Cavaliers are 10th in the league in scoring defense as they allow 104.9 points per contest. LeBron James leads the team with 34.4 points plus 9.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 2.13 steals and 1.5 blocks a night. Kyrie Irving contributes 23.8 points plus 5.8 assists a game while Kevin Love puts up 13.8 points plus 9.1 rebounds per contest. The team would like to get more from Channing Frye, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, Deron Williams and Tristan Thompson. Cleveland is #1 in field goal percentage during the postseason by shooting 49 percent from the field and is 1st by knocking down 14.4 triples per contest. The Cavaliers are first in three point shooting as they hit 43.4 percent from beyond the arc.
After a back and forth series that saw the home team win every game, Boston took advantage of home court to put the Wizards away for good. An 18-2 fourth quarter run proved critical in dispatching Washington and sending the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston shot 53.2 percent from the floor and went 11 of 26 from three point range to help offset a 43-31 rebounding disadvantage. The Celtics forced 15 turnovers and held a massive 48-5 edge in bench points, which proved critical in the game. Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 29 points and 12 assists in the victory.
The Celtics come into this contest 6th in the playoffs in scoring offense with 107.1 points per game. Boston is 13th in the league in rebounding with 38.3 boards per game but stand 1st with 27.3 assists per contest. Boston is above average on the defensive end: they currently stand 8th in scoring defense, allowing 103.4 points per game. Isaiah Thomas leads the Celtics with 25.4 points plus 6.5 assists per game. Jae Crowder chips in 13.2 points plus six boards a contest. Avery Bradley puts up 15.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists a night. Al Horford has averaged 16.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. Marcus Smart chips in eight points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per contest. Tyler Zeller, Jaylen Brown, Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier and Gerald Green are key pieces in the rotation. The Celtics currently are 6th in the postseason in field goal percentage as they shoot 46.5 percent from the floor as a team. Boston is 2nd in three pointers per game with 13.1 while the team is 6th in three point percentage as they hit 37.3 percent from beyond the arc.
The conference finals have the two best teams in each conference squaring off for the right to advance to the NBA Finals. Cleveland dealt with a ton of rest to roll over Toronto and that gave them plenty of time to rest and recover while Boston was in action less than 48 hours before tipoff here. That might work in Boston’s favor as they don’t have to worry about knocking rust off. There is the potential for tired legs but the Celtics have won five straight at home. Boston gets a slim nod here: take the points in a close, entertaining contest.
One has to think that coach Tyronn Lue took some of the down time to try and figure out how to get Love more involved offensively. He has struggled in the playoffs and went 2 of 7 in Game 4 against Toronto, finishing with five points. In the postseason, he has more games in single digit points (three) than games where he has scored at least 20 (one), which has to be a concern. Boston has a tremendous duo in Horford and Thomas: can they find a third wheel to compete with Cleveland’s Big Three here, or are the Celtics a year too early to make a run to the NBA Finals?
The over is 10-3 in the Cavaliers last 13 games following a straight up win, 23-7-1 in their last 31 when their opponent allows 100 points or more in their previous game and 12-4 in their last 16 overall. Boston has seen the over go 7-0-1 in their last 8 home games, 5-1 in their last six conference finals contests, 5-2 in their last seven overall and 5-2 in their last seven games against Eastern Conference foes. With plenty of threes being fired (and likely hit) by both teams, this one should inch past the total.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.