So far home-court advantage has proven to be the biggest deciding factor in this year’s Eastern Conference Finals series. In the first five games of the matchup between Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, the home team is undefeated, with an average margin of victory of 18 points.
The series shifts to Cleveland today for Game 6, as the Cavs look to force a decisive Game 7 (8:30 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN).
Boston’s defense has been fantastic in its home games, but the Cavs have exploded offensively when playing on their home floor. Will that trend hold for Game 6, or did the Celtics finally wear down the Cavs with their shutdown Game 5 performance?
This Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers Game 6 preview will analyze the determining factors before deciding on our picks and betting predictions.
Is LeBron James Exhausted or Just Pacing Himself?
James looked mortal in Game 5 after a playoff run of dominance. He put up 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in 39 minutes, but he also had six turnovers and played very lazy defense. The Cavaliers were outscored by 11 points in James’ time on the floor.
The turnovers have been a problem for James all series. He has averaged 5.8 miscues per contest and has been quite careless in general. Some of the miscues have also been a result of him just losing the ball while dribbling.
LeBron did have 44 points in Game 4, but just one day of rest between that contest and Game 5 and his huge role for the Cavs seemed to have him worn out for Wednesday’s game. Was he just pacing himself knowing that he can get the Celtics back today? It’s hard to know with a player as good as James.
Can Marcus Smart Be the Game’s Best Reserve On the Road?
Smart, much like the Celtics as a whole, has been much better at home than on the road in this series. At home, he has put up 11 points, 4 rebounds, 6.3 assists and just 0.7 turnovers per contest with 40/35.7/100 shooting splits. On the road, he has averaged 7.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and a whopping 4 turnovers per contest with 23.5/11.1/75 shooting splits.
Those three home games were, not coincidentally, all Celtics wins. The two away games were Boston losses. The Cavs are in trouble when Smart is his normal disruptive self on defense and also provides positive things on offense. When Smart is clanking most of his shots and committing bad turnovers that lead to Cleveland points in transition, the Cavs are fine with him playing even though his defense is excellent.
Smart needs to find a way to generate motivation internally so he can continue to play loose and confidently on offense despite being on the road.
Can Tristan Thompson Get a Handle on Al Horford Again?
Thompson has been a difference-maker for the Cavs in this series. Horford’s numbers of 14.4 points, 8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game with solid efficiency are good on the surface, but they have been considerably worse when Thompson is on the floor to guard Boston’s All-Star center. In the past, also, Cleveland’s athletic big man has given Horford a bunch of trouble.
In Game 5, though, Thompson was a non-factor. He scored one point while missing all three of his field-goal attempts. He also had just six rebounds, while Horford snared 12 misses off the rim and put in an efficient 15 points.
Game 6 will be an interesting one, as we see whether Game 5 was a fluke in the Thompson-Horford matchup or if Boston figured something out.
Our Preview’s Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers Game 6 Betting Picks & Predictions
The Cavaliers are experienced and at home and the Celtics are young and on the road. While the Celtics are a better all-around team, they have been significantly affected by playing on the road in the postseason. Boston is 1-6 on other teams’ home floors with a -12 point differential per game.
LeBron James with his back against the wall in elimination games is always a monster and he should respond with a big game.
- The Cavs are 7-point favorites with pretty much all the top American-facing sportsbooks, though the exact odds vary. For the pick on the spread, this preview suggests taking the Cavaliers -7 @ -105 with Bookmaker.
- This game could see a lot of LeBron James in isolation and post-ups as he looks to end this series singlehandedly. These play types take a lot of time to develop, and the Celtics will have trouble pushing the pace on offense on them. For the second of our Boston Celtics vs Cavs betting predictions, bet the under 202 total points @ -110 with 5Dimes.
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.