LeBron James is on another level. Arguably the greatest basketball player in history submitted another spectacular playoff performance for the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, dropping 46 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in a 109-99 win over the hapless Boston Celtics.
The series moves back to Boston today for the deciding Game 7 (8:30pm ET Sunday on ESPN). The winner will go to the NBA Finals and the loser’s season will be over.
Home-court advantage continued its stranglehold on this series in Game 6 as the hosting Cavs kept alive the streak of the home team winning every game. However, it is always tough to count out LeBron James, even on the road with top teammate Kevin Love sidelined with concussion symptoms.
This Cavs at Celtics preview will discuss the chief points in this massive Game 7 before predicting the smartest ways to bet with our predictions and picks.
Can Celtics Help Al Horford Succeed On Offense Again?
In the first two games of this series, Horford was fantastic on offense. The Celtics center averaged 17.5 points and five assists on 56.5 percent shooting with zero total turnovers in that span. In the four games since then, his averages have dropped to 10.8 points and 2.5 assists per with 1.3 turnovers per game on a poor shooting percentage of 38.2.
Cleveland has been throwing frequent double teams at Horford in the post, and he has had more trouble with those than he usually does. Boston needs to use Horford mainly as a screener to get him either open shots on the pop, or as a roller so he can get the ball in space and make good decisions.
Horford was recently awarded with a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team for this season. He is always going to help on that side of the floor. Boston needs its best healthy player to be more of an offensive factor.
Will George Hill Submit Another Quality Performance as a Second Scorer?
Heading into Friday’s Game 6, George Hill’s most points in a playoff game this season was just 13. Cleveland has used him as a low-usage defensive specialist and occasional slasher, not a consistent source of offense. But Hill dropped 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line in Game 6. It was a much-needed performance for the Cavaliers given Kevin Love’s injury.
Hill is capable of hitting 20 points (or close to it) on a more regular basis with his skill set, but his role with the Cavs team has been very limited. Often, he gets a kick out pass from LeBron James, sees whether he has an open outside shot, and then just passes back to LeBron if nothing is there.
In Game 7, Hill needs to stay aggressive, looking for his own shots and drives more often. If he doesn’t, the load may just be a bit too heavy for James by himself.
Will Free Throw Situation Change Moving to Boston?
There are two things to look at in terms of free throws here: the actual number of attempts each team got from the referees, and then how well they shot them.
Boston was the loser of both battles in Game 6. The Celtics did get only two fewer free-throw attempts than the Cavaliers (20 to 22), but they did seem to lose out on some extra opportunities due to missed calls. They probably should have had more shots at the charity stripe than the Cavs.
Once the Celtics made it to the line, they had a terrible time making their shots. Boston made 11 of its 20 free throws (55 percent) after converting on 94 of 114 (82.5 percent) of such shots in the first five games of the series.
With the series shifting back to Boston for Game 7, there’s a decent chance the Celtics get more love from the refs. Even if they do, will a return home help ease those nerves at the free throw line?
Our Preview’s Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Game 7 Betting Picks & Predictions
I can’t shake the feeling that this is the year that the Cavaliers finally fail to make the NBA Finals for the first time in four years. LeBron’s supporting cast just isn’t very strong right now, and Boston is undefeated at home in the postseason (10-0 record). The Celtics should get the benefit of the doubt from the referees’ whistles in this contest, unlike Game 6.
It’s terrifying betting against LeBron in an elimination game, but think of it as betting against his teammates, not him. Here are the Cavs at Boston Celtics Game 7 predictions for this preview:
- Boston is a 2.5-point favorite at home in Game 7. The Celtics’ smallest margin of victory in a home game in the postseason is five points. I suggest betting on the Celtics -2.5 @ -110 with 5Dimes or Intertops.
- Game 7s can be defensive struggles, since both teams give 100 percent, which often transfers better to the defensive end. The loss of Kevin Love for the Cavs also hurts the offense, but helps the team’s defense. Place your bet on the under 200 total points @ -115 with Bovada.