Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics Preview and Pick – Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 1

Cleveland Cavaliers (45-37 regular season) +9 , o/u 183 at Boston Celtics (66-16), 8 pm Eastern Tuesday, TNT
by Zman of

The defending Eastern Conference champions take on the team most expect to dethrone them this playoff season when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Boston Celtics for game one of their East semi-finals series Tuesday night at something called TD Banknorth Garden in Beantown.

NBA Bookmakers list Boston as 9 1/2-point home favorites for Tuesday’s game, with an over/under of 183. The Celtics are also posted at around -625 on various Vegas moneylines, with Cleveland getting +450 as road underdogs. And Boston is listed at anywhere from -800 to -1400 to win this series, while the Cavs are getting upwards of +900.

The Celtics rolled through the regular season, winning the Atlantic Division by 25 games and posting the best record in the league by seven games. But Boston struggled with the 8th-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs, needing seven games to dispatch a team that went 37-45 this season.

So bettors will have to try and discern whether that series revealed Celtics weaknesses, or whether it woke them up.

Cleveland finished a distant 14 games behind the Detroit Pistons in the Central Division this season, and 21 games behind Boston in the East standings. The Cavaliers then knocked off the Washington Wizards in six games in a first-round playoff series, winning twice in D.C.

Cleveland went 37-45 against the spread during the regular season, and while 18-23 straight up on the road, 22-19 vs. the numbers away from home. The Cavs also went 4-2 ATS vs. Washington in the first round.

The Celtics went a profitable 52-28 vs. the spread this season, 35-6 SU and 25-15 vs. the numbers at home. Boston also went 4-3 ATS vs. Atlanta in the first round.

These two teams split four games during the regular season, both teams winning twice at home. And the great LeBron James for C-Town and Kevin Garnett for the Celtics missed one game each. Boston outshot Cleveland from the floor in the four games 47% to 42.5%, but the Cavs outrebounded the Celts by a 44-39 per-game margin.

Also, the totals went 2-2 in the four games, which averaged (excluding one OT period) 185 total points per.

Boston was favored by double digits at home four times in the series vs. Atlanta, and covered the line all four games.

Statistically speaking, Cleveland ranked 15th in the league this season in point differential at -.3 per game. The Cavaliers also shot 44% from the field, 36% from 3-point range and just 72% from the free-throw line, ranked 11th in FG defense at 45.5% and led the league in rebounding at +4.2 per game. And the Cavs posted a 20/13 per-game assist-to-turnover ratio.

The Celtics led the league in point differential at +10.3 per game, shot 48% from the floor, 38% from long range and 77% from the line, led the league in FG defense at 42%, ranked 4th in rebounding at +3.1 per game, and put up a 22/14 per-game A/TO ratio.

The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at ranks Cleveland 14th at 90.3, Boston #1 at 99.9. Sagarin’s current NBA home-court advantage figure is 3.75.

The o/u went 37-43 in Cavaliers games this season, which averaged 193 total points per, while the totals went 36-45 in Celtics games, which averaged 191 points.

Zman’s Pick: I like the Celtics to beat up the Cavs tonight and cover the current line of -9.5!