If LeBron James really is Superman, he better exit the phone booth on Saturday to help save the Cleveland Cavaliers season. Following their sweep of the top-seeded Raptors in the second round, it looked as though the Cavs had put things together for another run to the Finals. But the Boston Celtics have something to say about that, and they’re looking to avenge a drubbing in last year’s Eastern Conference Final. The Cs stayed undefeated at the Garden this postseason by winning the first two games, but they haven’t been nearly as deadly on the road. And that gives the Cavs hope they can climb back into the series by taking Game 3.
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Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final is set for Saturday, May 19, 2018 at 8:30 p.m. ET from Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.
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The Cavaliers hit the board as a 5.5-point favorite and playing in their gym should help them snap out of their funk. It was a rough stretch for the Cavs in Beantown with their offense faltering. They went 0-2 ATS and cashed the under both times with some serious help from Boston’s top-notch defense.
The Cavs have won five straight at the Q, but they are just 1-5 ATS in those games. They like em close and the opening line definitely gives value to the Celtics. However, Boston is a different team on the road with a 1-4 SU and 2-3 ATS record in the postseason, and you know the Cavs are going to be geeked up for this matchup with a chance to get back in the series.
The total hit the board at 204.5 and the over is getting plenty of early action. The Cavs can’t be as bad as they were in Boston when they averaged just 88.5 points, can they? The betting public doesn’t think so, but the teams cashed the under four times in their five meetings this season.
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After the Celtics had their way in Game 2, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said Boston was tougher and more physical. And it’s hard to disagree with his assessment after Boston had a 50-42 scoring advantage in the paint. The Celtics also won the battle in Game 1 with a 60-38 points in the paint edge.
That difference can be offset with the three-ball, but the Cavs haven’t been able to knock down their shots from distance either. They were an atrocious 4 of 26 from deep in Game 1, which led to their 25-point waxing. There was some improvement in Game 2, but not enough.
It’s pretty simple what the Cavs must do to get back in the series. They were settling for too many jumpshots and not moving the ball around. Their iso sets for LeBron were predictable and the offense became stagnant, and that played right into the hands of Boston’s defense.
Thanks to their better record the Celtics have the homecourt advantage, and they’ve used it. Boston is undefeated at the Garden this postseason and they don’t have to win a road game in this series. That puts all the pressure on the Cavs, especially after they were destroyed in the first two games.
Cleveland must win on Saturday to have any hope of winning the series and advancing to a fourth straight NBA Finals. The Celtics probably feel like they’re playing with house money and this group is dangerous when playing free. However, we’ve seen Boston stumble on the road during the playoffs, winning one of their five games, and that’s the motivation the Cavs need to get back in the series.
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Don’t count LeBron and the Cavs out just yet. A return home should help them get back on track after some questionable play in Boston. James nearly carried them to a win in Game 2 with his 42-point triple-double. However, he didn’t look the same after tweaking his neck in a collision with Jayson Tatum.
The Cavs need to be more physical and play with a sense of urgency. The home crowd will get them amped and I expect more from their backcourt. George Hill scored three points in Game 2 and J.R. Smith had zilch missing all seven of his shots. And there’s LeBron, who’s not going down without a fight.
NBA ATS Pick: Cavaliers 110, Celtics 103