Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Preview and Pick

Boston Celtics (36-8) +3, 185 at Cleveland Cavaliers (26-20), 7 pm Eastern Tuesday
by Zman of

The best team in the Eastern Conference so far this season takes on the defending Eastern Conference champions when the Boston Celtics visit the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night.

But Boston will be without star forward Kevin Garnett, who’s missed the Celtics’ last three games with an abdominal strain and will probably be out for at least another week. And yet Boston has won two of three games so far with KG absent from action.

Online betting sites list Cleveland as three-point home chalk for Tuesday’s game, with a total of 185. Also, the Cavs are posted at right around -145 on various Vegas moneylines, with the Celts getting +125 as road underdogs.

Boston hasn’t played in five days. In their most recent outing, the Celtics scored the last six points of the game to beat Dallas 96-90 last Thursday. Going into Tuesday’s game, Boston leads the Atlantic Division by 11 games over the second-place Toronto Raptors and sits atop the Eastern Conference standings, 3 games clear of the Detroit Pistons.

On the other side of this match-up, Cleveland has won two straight after beating the Clippers Saturday 98-84, upping its record to 12-3 in 2008. Heading into this week’s play, the Cavaliers remain in second place in the Central Division, 7 games back of first-place Detroit, and hold down the four spot in the East.

The Celtics are a well-paying 27-16 against the spread so far this season, and 16-4 straight up and 13-6-1 vs. the numbers on the road. Meanwhile, Cleveland is 22-24 ATS this season, 14-7 SU but just 8-13 vs. the numbers at home.

The Cavs took two of three games from Boston last season, but that was before the Celts picked up KG and Ray Allen over the off-season. This season, Cleveland beat Boston 109-104 in OT back on Nov. 27, while the Celtics defeated a LeBron James-less Cavs 80-70 on Dec. 2. The o/u has gone 3-2 in those last five games in the series between these two teams, which have averaged 185 total points. Which happens to be exactly the o/u for Tuesday’s game.

Statistically speaking, Boston leads the league with a +11.1 per-game point differential, while Cleveland, despite a winning record, ranks 16th at -.6 points per game.

The Celtics are shooting 47% from the field as a team this season, 38% from 3-point range and 77% from the free-throw line. On the other end of the court, the Cavs are shooting 44% from the floor, 35% from beyond the arc and just 72% from the stripe.

Boston leads the league in FG defense at 42%, while Cleveland ranks 22nd at 46%. And while the Cavs ranks 2nd in the league in rebounding at +3.4 boards per game, the Celts rank 3rd at +3.0.

The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at ranks Boston #1 at 100.0, Cleveland 15th at 90.4. Sagarin’s current NBA home-court advantage figure is 3.1.

Also on the injury front, the Cavs are still without F Anderson Varejao, who’s averaging eight points and 8 rebounds per game this season, after he turned an ankle last Sunday.

The o/u is 19-24 in Celtics games this season, which are averaging 187.5 total points, while the totals are 23-22 in Cleveland games, which are averaging 195 points.

Zman’s Pick: Take the Cavs at -3.