Boston (64-31 straight up, 60-33-2 against the spread) drew first blood in a big way in Sunday’s series opener of the Eastern Conference finals, destroying Cleveland by a 108-83 count as a one-point home underdog. The 191 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 205-point total.
Boston improved to 11-0 ATS with 10 outright wins in 11 games as a home underdog this year. Jaylen Brown scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds. He drained 9-of-16 field-goal attempts and 3-of-5 launches from 3-point land. The Celtics made 43-of-84 FGAs (51.2%), 11-of-30 treys (36.7%) and 11-of-13 free throws (84.6%).
Boston controlled the glass with a 48-40 rebounding advantage. The C’s were outstanding at the defensive end, forcing the Cavaliers to shoot a dismal 31-of-86 (36.0%) from the field and 4-of-26 from downtown (15.4%).
Marcus Morris was inserted into the starting lineup to defend LeBron James, who was held to 15 points on 5-of-16 FGAs. Morris produced 21 points and 10 rebounds, burying 3-of-4 shots from beyond the arc. Al Horford added 20 points, four rebounds, two blocked shots and six assists without a turnover.
Jayson Tatum contributed 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block, while Terry Rozier finished with eight points, six rebounds and eight assists compared to only one turnover. Marcus Smart, who matched up against James defensively when Morris wasn’t checking him, had nine points, six assists, three boards and one steal.
Kevin Love scored a team-best 17 points for Cleveland and had eight rebounds and three assists. Rodney Hood, a complete non-factor in the postseason so far, was in double figures with 11 points off the bench. Jordan Clarkson finished with 10 points.
As of early Tuesday morning, most books had the Celtics listed as one-point favorites for Game 2. The total was 203 points. Sportsbook.ag had the Cavs as -120 favorites for the updated series price, leaving bettors with the option of taking Boston at even money.
Brad Stevens’s squad is 35-14 SU and 30-17-2 ATS at home this season. The Celtics are unbeaten both SU and ATS in eight postseason home games to date. They’ve won four of those games by double-digit margins.
Horford appears to be a major matchup problem for the Cavs. The University of Florida product has enjoyed an outstanding postseason, averaging 17.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 blocked shots and 1.1 steals per game. Horford, who has made 59.3 percent of his FGAs, 37.9 percent of his 3-pointers and 80.4 percent of his FTs, has a 46/27 assist-to-turnover ratio through 13 playoff games.
Cleveland (58-36 SU, 36-57-1 ATS) owns a 24-23 SU record and a 22-25 ATS mark in its road games this season. Tyronn Lue’s club is 3-3 both SU and ATS in six postseason road games to date.
James had scored at least 22 points in his team’s first 11 playoff outings. Morris and Smart stifled The Association’s premier player in Game 1, however, forcing him into seven turnovers. James had nine assists, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks, but he missed all five of his attempts from downtown. Nevertheless, he’s still averaging 32.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocked shots per contest. James has a stellar 108/41 assist-to-turnover ratio.
VegasInsider.com’s Kevin Rogers explains how Cleveland has fared well in bounce-back mode since LeBron’s return to the franchise. Rogers said, “The Cavaliers have lost two of three series openers in the playoffs and if it wasn’t for a second half rally against Toronto, that number could be 0-3. Game 2 has been a different story for Cleveland in the postseason, especially for LeBron James. In Game 2 against Indiana in the opening round, James blew up for 40 points in a win, while scoring 41 against the Raptors in Game 2 of their conference semifinal series. Since rejoining the Cavaliers in 2015, James has had a knack for bouncing back off a loss, especially against Eastern foes by compiling a 7-1 record, including a 3-0 mark this postseason.”
Boston’s Shane Larkin will miss a third straight game tonight due to a shoulder injury. Larkin, a fourth-year guard who played his college ball at Miami, was averaging 3.7 points, 1.8 assists and 1.0 RPG in the Celtics’ first 11 postseason contests.
The ‘over’ is 51-43-1 overall for the Celtics, 29-20 in their home games. They’ve seen the ‘over’ go 14-6 in their past 20 outings.
The ‘under’ is 48-44-2 overall for Cleveland, 24-23 in its road assignments.