In the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, it has been clear which team wants to win more. The Celtics have played inspired basketball on both ends of the floor, while the Cavs just don’t look like they want to make the NBA Finals that badly.
Boston now holds a 2-0 lead after a couple of home victories by a combined 38 points. In Game 3 today, Cleveland will hope to get a boost in energy as it moves to its home floor (8:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN).
One thing is for sure — Cleveland needs a lot more production from players not named LeBron James or Kevin Love. LeBron is easily the top player on either squad, and Love has been solid, but the other guys have been dwarfed in impact by the Celtics’ tidal wave of above-average players.
Will the Cavs finally show up to the series or will the Celtics’ intensity level continue to be superior? We will talk about some key issues for Game 3 and then give our Boston Celtics vs Cavs Game 3 predictions. This preview will have a couple of educated stabs at betting picks, with the aim to get the better of the top USA sports betting sites.
Will J.R. Smith Continue to Be Invisible?
OK, Smith wasn’t totally invisible in Game 2. He committed a terrible push foul on Al Horford that was ruled flagrant and drew major boos from the Boston crowd. However, Smith has been downright bad in this series, scoring just four points and shooting a combined 2-of-16 from the field and 0-of-7 from three-point range in the first two contests.
Against the Raptors in the second round of the postseason, Smith was awesome. He made 17-of-27 shots from the field and hit 10 out of 13 three-pointers. But something has just fallen apart for him. He has always been a streaky offensive player, but he has hit a whole new level of inconsistency. Not only is Smith playing poorly on offense, he has been terrible on defense.
Cleveland needs more production out of its starting shooting guard. Boston is getting at least something positive from every player who touches the floor. The Cavs can’t afford to have a guy on the floor who is just dead weight.
Can Cleveland Get Back to Whipping Ball Around on Offense?
The Cavaliers defense is what it is. The team will likely step it up a bit on that end in front of its home crowd, but the squad has been poor at stopping opponents all season long.
It can help its defense, however, by playing offense that isn’t so conducive to getting attacked in transition. The Cavs have been miserable at communicating in transition defense in this series; keeping the Celtics in their half-court offense would be a huge win for Cleveland.
Cleveland needs to stop falling back into the same play over and over. Right now, it is letting LeBron James handle the ball, get a pick and then trying to attack the person who switches onto him. James is good enough to score on this possession type many times but it also fails a lot.
When the play fails, it often results in easy transition points for the Celtics. This is because the Cavs’ offense isn’t making the Celtics’ defense move around, which means Boston has the energy to sprint the other way once it gets the ball. LeBron waiting until late in the shot clock to attack also creates panicked decisions and leads to Cleveland turnovers.
Does LeBron James Have an Eye on Offseason?
James is not only the best player in the NBA, but he is easily the most valuable guy to his team at this point in the season. The rest of the Cavaliers’ roster is mediocre, but James’ play pulls everything together when he is engaged.
We saw what happened in Game 2 in the first quarter when James was engaged. He put in 21 points in the first quarter, leading the Cavs to a four-point lead. From that point until the end of the game, Boston outscored Cleveland by 17 points and ran away with the win in the second half.
James had the same number of points in the final three quarters combined as he did in the first quarter. He also played uninspired defense and looked generally less motivated compared to the first quarter.
Boston seems to have James looking toward this offseason, at which point he becomes a free agent. If James continues to play in a distracted manner, Cleveland has little to no chance of winning this game or series, even at home.
Our Preview’s Boston Celtics at Cavs Game 3 Betting Picks & Predictions
Cleveland is going to play better at home. Another loss by double digits is unlikely. However, the Cavs have some very deep-seated issues on defense that Boston knows exactly how to attack.
The Cavs just need to hope that they get better shooting from its role players. That is somewhat likely, but the Celtics’ defense is also extremely stingy. I find the chances of the Cavs winning by a considerable margin very slim.
- Cleveland is favored by 6 points with most, but not quite all, betting outlets. Our Celtics vs Cavs Game 3 prediction is that you should confidently place your bet on the Celtics +6.5pts @ -110 with Intertops.
- Cleveland will realize that it needs to score more in transition and attack earlier in pick-and-rolls. Don’t expect as many desperation shots very late in the shot clock. Boston will keep on exposing the Cavs’ weak transition defense. For the second of this preview’s picks, bet the over 205 total points to be scored @ -110 with Bookmaker or Intertops.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.