Will the Cleveland Cavaliers lose a single playoff game to an Eastern Conference foe this year? The top-seeded Boston Celtics will get their first crack at giving Cleveland a loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals today (8:30pm ET Wednesday on TNT).
While the Cavs have swept through their first two rounds of the postseason, Boston has had a more difficult road. The Celtics needed six games to dispose of the Chicago Bulls, then went the full seven games against the Washington Wizards in a back-and-forth series.
Cleveland has the star power advantage over the Celtics, with LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers’ defense, still not a strength of the team, has improved in the postseason but will be tested by Boston.
Can Boston hold serve tonight despite being a rare Game 1 underdog at home? Let’s ask a few important questions for the matchup, then make a couple of picks and betting predictions.
Can the Cavaliers Get More Involvement From Kevin Love?
The Cavaliers are at their best when all three stars (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love) are playing like stars. Thus far in the postseason, LeBron has been a force of nature, Irving has been decent and Love has been very unspectacular outside of one game.
If you take out Love’s 27 points on 6-of-7 shooting in Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers, Love is averaging just 11.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 2.4 turnovers on a below-average true-shooting percentage of 51.4. All of those numbers need to improve.
Boston is the best team the Cavs have faced thus far and Cleveland will need a diversified attack to surmount a Celtics defense that plays very well at home. That means more from Love.
Is the Game 7 Production from the Celtics’ Bench Sustainable?
Boston’s reserves stole the show against the Washington Wizards in Game 7 of their series. Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown were simply fabulous, with a total of 48 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and just one turnover on 17-of-26 shooting from the field between them. They were a combined plus-25 on the floor and helped hold Washington’s bench to five points total.
The Cavs’ bench is better than the Wizards’. However, Cleveland’s reserves don’t set the world on fire, either, and are mostly three-point shooters who do little else.
The Celtics’ reserve trio of Olynyk, Smart and Brown is much more versatile skill-wise than its Cleveland counterparts, even if the overall impact is similar. Let’s see if Boston’s bench continues to play with remarkable energy at home and shuts down the Cavs’ reserve shooters on the defensive end.
How Fatigued Will the Celtics Be?
Sure, Cleveland probably will be a bit rusty. They will end up having a whopping 10 days between Game 4 of the conference semifinals and Game 1 of this series.
However, I believe the fatigue of the Celtics relative to the Cavs could be a bigger deal in this matchup. Playing a seven-game series is both physically and mentally draining, even though some of the games were blowouts.
Boston’s ability to do the little things like scramble for loose balls, keep Cleveland out of transition and close out hard on shooters will go a long way in determining the outcome of Game 1.
Our Betting Preview’s Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics Game 1 Predictions & Picks
Boston has now won its last five home playoff games, winning all of them by double digits. Cleveland is a much different animal than Chicago or Washington, but I think it’s safe to assume Boston will stay competitive in this game, at the very least.
The Celtics’ role players have been amazing at home as of late and Cleveland’s defense has yet to reach the levels of last year’s postseason. If the Celtics are going to win a game in this series, I can’t see a more likely victory than Game 1 at home, when both teams are still feeling each other out.
- Cleveland is favorite with the American betting companies by between four and five points. This is a lot of respect for LeBron James and co, even though they are undefeated in the postseason. Pick Boston +5pts @ -110 only with Bovada Sportsbook.
- A total of 219 to 219.5 is the generally projected over/under for this contest. Cleveland should be looking to pick up the pace here, and Boston will be willing to oblige. At home in the playoffs, the Celtics have been excellent scoring in transition. Both teams are also very good on the offensive side of the ball, aside from just the pace aspect, too, so expect a high-scoring game that surpasses 219 points @ -115 with Bovada. It is over 219.5pts for -110 with the others.