The first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers were shocking. The Celtics ran the defending conference champions off the floor in both contests, winning by a combined 38 points.
Then, in equally surprising fashion, the Cavs completely flipped the script on their home floor in Game 3. They blitzed the Celtics by 30 points and looked like a totally different team from the one that showed up in Boston.
Today the two teams will play in Cleveland again, as the Cavaliers attempt to the tie the series and the Celtics try to regain their winning formula (8:30 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN).
This series has proven to be very unpredictable, but we can still discuss and predict what might happen in Game 4. Below are some main factors surrounding the game and, in our bid to best the U.S. bookies, we will conclude with our Game 4 predictions and betting picks.
Can Cleveland Bring It in the First Quarter Again?
The Cavs have made the NBA Finals in three consecutive years. As such, they often play with a “been there, done that” mindset early in games and just assume they can flip a switch later in the contest to win.
Against teams as good as Boston, that isn’t feasible. In Game 1, the Celtics had way more energy than their opponent and raced out to a 36-18 lead. Game 2 was better, as the Cavs began with a 27-23 lead, but that was largely based on LeBron James going off for 21 points in the first frame. Nobody else was really engaged.
In Game 3, though, Cleveland moved the ball with purpose on offense and got plenty of high-quality shots from the outside and near the rim. The Cavs moved with purpose on defense, led by James, and took a 36-18 lead after one quarter.
The Cavs need to act like they haven’t been here before in their effort. They need to keep up the high-movement offense both on and off the ball, the shots need to keep going in and the defense can’t lose any intensity.
Will Boston Start to Increase the Pace of the Game?
The Celtics didn’t get the ball off the Cavs’ misses or turnovers very often in this game. They had a combined 32 defensive rebounds in steals in Game 3, compared to an average of 45.5 of those stats in Games 1 and 2.
Part of this is just lazy defense by the Celtics. They clearly didn’t bring their best effort on that end of the floor. But Boston also needs to pick up the pace by making its offensive possessions shorter; Cleveland can’t handle the Celtics when they are constantly pushing the ball up the floor.
Both teams lived at the free throw line in Game 3 (58 combined free throw attempts) which means the game’s pace was quite slow and the Cavaliers had time in the middle of the game to regain energy. This hurts the Celtics, who have the advantage in youth and athleticism.
Will Cavs Continue to Get Quality Minutes from Larry Nance Jr.?
Nance has seen his role diminish for the Cavaliers in the last two rounds of the postseason. Against Toronto and then in the first two games against Boston, he combined for just 24 minutes in six contests.
Then, in Game 3 on Saturday, Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue decided to give him 21 whole minutes. Nance responded by making all four of his field-goal attempts on his way to eight points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
Nance is a similar player to teammate Tristan Thompson. Both are athletic, agile big men who finish well around the rim and rebound. Thompson has caused trouble for Celtics center Al Horford in the past. If Nance can be a similar player, the Cavs can keep winning the rebounding battle and getting a lot of points in the paint.
Our Betting Preview’s Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers Game 4 Predictions & Picks
It is tough to bet against LeBron James, but his teammates played way over their heads in Game 3. It’s also tough to bet against Celtics head coach Brad Stevens and his ability to get the most out of his players, especially compared to Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue.
With just one day off between games, the Cavs’ older guys may be a little bit more fatigued. So, despite the team’s terrible Game 3 performance, expect Boston to come out with much more energy and at least keep Game 4 close.
- Cleveland is favored by a similar amount as Game 3, which is 6.5 or 7 points. Put your money on the Celtics +7pts @ -110 with Bookmaker.
- Boston’s offense will be much better in Game 4, and it starts with picking up the pace. This contest will have an average score, so somewhere in the neighborhood of 210 total points. Bet the over 5 @ -110 with 5Dimes 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.