NBA ECF Playoff Preview: Game 2 – Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics

Kevin Love led the Cavaliers with 17 points in Game 1, but they were badly outmatched in losing by 25-points.

NBA ECF Playoff Preview: Game 2 – Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics

Game 2 – Cleveland at Boston
Time: 7:30 PM (CT) ESPN
Spread: EVEN
Total: 203.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

Despite being 1.5-point favorites in Game 1, the Cleveland Cavaliers were smoked in the TD Garden, losing by a bountiful 25-points, as Boston leaped out to a 36-18 advantage after the first quarter, never looking back and utterly destroying the Cavs in the series opener. Game 2 sees NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes setting the line EVEN, as LeBron James attempts to come back from a 0-1 series deficit in this best-of-seven. The betting total is set at 203.5 points, and Game 1 saw the teams combine for 191 points.

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The story of Game 1 was simply that the Celtics, as a team, found a way to truly contain LeBron James. Credit rookie Jayson Tatum with much of that, but due to switches nearly all five players saw at least a few possessions on the league’s best player. At the half, James had attempted just seven field goals (connecting on three of those) and appeared distraught and rattled by Boston’s aggressive team defense.

James finished the game just 5 of 16 from the floor for 15 points, nine assists and seven boards. The fact that he got so little help more or less sealed the Cavaliers fate. Kevin Love was just 5 of 14 from the field and 1 of 4 from three-point range but did finish with a team-high 17 points. The Cavs shot just 36 percent from the floor and were 4 of 26 from three. That is a recipe for being blown out, to be sure.

Boston, meanwhile, was a healthy 51.2 percent from the floor and got major scoring contributions from four of its five starters. The starters shot 34 of 59 from the field, and only Terry Rozier was held in single digits, with eight points (though Rozier did contribute eight assists in the game).

Marcus Morris, Al Horford, and Jayson Tatum were outstanding in the frontcourt, and Morris came through with one of his best games of the 2018 postseason, scoring 21 points and finishing with a +25 point differential for his 34 minutes on the court. He saw a lot of time covering James and was able to steer him repeatedly into traffic. James was unable to get good shots, and that is seeming all the Celtics did all game, one after another. Boston hit 11 of 30 from three-point range and committed just nine turnovers in the game. The Celtics also held a +8 advantage on the glass while grabbing six offensive rebounds in the game. Most impressively, perhaps, was Boston’s 27 assists on 43 field goals, as the ball movement was crisp and decisive.

The Celtics are so strong defensively, and maybe it is now time that we all realize it. James could continue to have similar struggles to his Game 1 frustrations throughout this series, particularly with how many good individual defenders Boston has on its roster. Whether it be Morris, or Marcus Smart, or even Semi Ojeleye who draws the primary defensive assignment, all are perhaps far more capable than we thought, when aided by the help of a collective team defense.

Look for Boston to take a 2-0 series lead if James cannot get more help from his rag-tag collection of teammates. Initially, we did like the Cavaliers in this series, but perhaps only because we both underestimated the effect of Brad Stevens’ coaching, as well as forgetting to remember just how tough the Boston defense is–particularly in the postseason. Even if James is able to get it going, will it make the difference in a 25-point swing in Game 2 to make Cleveland that much better?

Something tells us no, which is what makes it so easy to favor the Boston Celtics, even while Vegas oddsmakers set the line dead even.

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