The Boston Celtics came out ready to play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Playing the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Celtics sprinted out to a 29-9 lead late in the first quarter before coasting to a 108-83 victory.
Boston’s home crowd enthusiastically pushed its team to play lockdown defense, and the Cleveland offense was totally out of sorts. Even the legendary LeBron James had just 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting with seven turnovers.
Game 2 today affords Cleveland a chance to take home-court advantage away from the Celtics, despite the Cavs’ dreadful Game 1 performance (8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday on ESPN).
How will these teams stack up in Game 2? Ponder the questions below as you consider your betting options. At the end of the preview, this preview will offer some Cavs at Celtics betting predictions and picks based on what we know about the two teams.
Can Cleveland Allow Tristan Thompson to be More of a Factor?
Thompson has consistently been a thorn in the side of the Celtics’ Al Horford. This dates back to a 2015 playoff series when the Cavs played the Atlanta Hawks, who had Horford at that point. Leading up to Game 1, Thompson had won 12 of the last 13 playoff games between the two players. Cleveland outrebounded Horford’s teams by a total of 101 rebounds in those games.
Horford is a very good player, but for some reason, Thompson is just a bad matchup for him. Thompson’s biggest strength, rebounding, is also Horford’s main (maybe only?) weakness as a center. Thompson is also somewhat quick for a big man and plays strong individual defense in the post to help neutralize Horford.
Thompson had 21 minutes to go with eight points and 11 rebounds in Game 1, but most of his minutes didn’t match Horford’s. Tyronn Lue has hinted that Thompson will start Game 2. This needs to happen and Thompson needs to play a full load of starter’s minutes so the Cavs can muck the game up in the paint a bit more.
Will Good Marcus Morris Continue to Show Up?
Morris has been very unreliable in the postseason thus far. He has shot 37.2 percent from the field and has shooting games of 1-of-10, 3-of-14, 4-of-14 and 2-of-8. His defense has been very good, but his offense has been very streaky.
In Game 1, Morris was on. With the threat of his three-point shot falling (3-of-4 in the game), he was able to score from a variety of spots and get to the free-throw line five times. In all, he scored 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
Since the Celtics don’t have a true go-to scorer without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward, the pressure is on the team to have three or four guys who can combine to have the effect of a go-to scorer. Morris is sometimes one of those guys, but he is sometimes very detrimental to the offense because his shot selection is often questionable. Which version of Morris will show up in Game 2?
Will Cavs Execute Their Offense Better?
The Cavaliers can’t feel good about the way they played on either end of the floor in Game 1. But their defense has been a problem for most of the season, while the offense has been mostly good.
Instead of running plays that include off-ball movement and creative screens, the team ran a lot of isolation, post-up or very predictable high-screen action. Since Boston’s defense switches on almost all screens, Cleveland was too intent on attacking perceived mismatches instead of just running its offense. The team had just 18 assists, down from its regular season average of 23.4.
This clearly affected the rhythm of shooters, who often had to take out-of-rhythm shots in unfamiliar positions. Since Boston was so fast getting back on transition, everything was in the half court. The Cavs shot 4-of-26 from three-point range, which can’t become a pattern for them.
Our Preview’s Cavs vs. Celtics Game 2 Betting Picks & Predictions
LeBron James played his worst game of the postseason in Game 1 and often uses the first contest of a series to be more passive as a scorer and feel things out. He is easily the best player in this matchup and should lift his team to a much more respectable result in Game 2.
Honestly, this game could go either way. Cleveland should have a much better strategy with Tristan Thompson in Game 2, and the team’s experience should lead to positive offensive adjustments. Here are our Cavs vs Boston predictions and picks for this preview:
- USA sports betting outlets have this game either as a pick ‘em, or the Celtics are favored by 1 point. Bet on the Cavaliers +1 @ -110 with Bovada, 5Dimes, Intertops or Bookmaker.
- It seems really doubtful that Cleveland will play nearly as poorly on offense as it did in Game 1. Also, the Celtics’ offense was good, not great, and it still put up 108 points. Expect around 205 to 210 points to be scored in this game, so bet the over 5pts @ -110 with Bookmaker.
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.