It’s a brand new series after the Cleveland Cavaliers held serve and won both outings at the Q. But in order for the Cavs to reach a fourth straight NBA Finals, they will need to win at least one game on the parquet floor. And the Boston Celtics haven’t been the most gracious hosts this postseason, winning all nine games at the Garden. But the Cavs have one thing the Celtics don’t, and LeBron James is all too familiar with the path to the Finals. The Eastern Conference Final has been reduced to a best-of-three and the Celtics look to regroup with another home win on Wednesday.
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Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final is set for Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 8:30 p.m. ET from TD Garden in Boston. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.
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Apparently the Celtics don’t travel their lucky leprechaun, because as good as they’ve been at home this postseason, they’ve been equally bad on the road. And that’s why were headed to a Game 5 with this series tied 2-2. Boston easily won Games 1 and 2 by a combined 38 points, but they couldn’t keep rolling once the series shifted to Cleveland.
The Celtics don’t have to win a game on the road to take the series and they’ve had the best homecourt edge in the NBA in the playoffs. They are 9-0 SU and ATS during the playoffs and they are 3-1 SU and ATS in all four games against the Cavs played in the Garden this season. They opened as a 1-point favorite for Game 5.
We had a relatively close game on Monday with the final margin in single digits for the first time in the series. And for once we didn’t have a team completely suck on offense. That allowed the over to cash for the first time and the total hit the board at 206 for Game 5. Given how the Cavs struggled in the first two games, going over that number might be difficult.
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With LeBron going off, the Cavs shredded Boston’s defense in the last two games, scoring an average of 113.5 points and shooting 49.7 percent from the field. Those numbers were quite different from the first two games when the Cavs were held to 88.5 points and shot 41 percent.
LeBron did his part, but he also got plenty of help in Games 3 and 4. After being held scoreless in Game 2, J.R. Smith totaled 20 points in the Cavs’ two wins. Kyle Korver made 6 of 9 three-pointers in the last two games scoring 14 points in each, and he’s given the team a boost off the bench after being replaced in the starting lineup by Tristan Thompson.
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After watching Kevin Love get torched by Al Horford in Game 1, Tyronn Lue made a change to his lineup. He inserted Thompson into a starting role, mainly to provide defense and a presence in the middle, and that also allowed Love to move to the 4, where he’s more comfortable. The switch didn’t pay off in Game 2, though Thompson played well and helped limit Horford to 15 points.
Used sparingly in the first six games of the Indiana series, Thompson excelled when given a more prominent role in Game 7, scoring 15 points with 10 boards to help the Cavs advance. Thompson did a number on Horford in Game 3, holding him to seven points while scoring 10 of his own. He was more of a factor on Monday tallying 13 points on 6 of 10 shooting while grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking two shots.
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Despite losing two straight and going back to Boston all even, the Celtics have to feel confident with the success they’ve had at the Garden. And they had a nice second-half run on Monday, fighting back from a 19-point deficit to close within seven points midway through the fourth quarter.
The Celtics are just a different team when playing at the Garden and I expect that homecourt advantage to work in their favor on Wednesday. And they likely won’t miss as many bunnies as they did in Game 4, and that’s the difference between winning and losing. Look for the home team to cover the small line in what should be a close battle.
NBA ATS Pick: Celtics 104, Cavaliers 99