Game 3 – ECF
Boston at Cleveland
Time: 7:30 PM CT ESPN, Saturday (May 19)
Spread: CLE -6.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Boston Celtics have managed to do the unthinkable, at least sort of. In Game 1, the Celtics held LeBron James to 15 points, and while he certainly erupted in Game 2 with a 42 point triple-double, he got precious little help from his teammates and the Celtics emerged with a 2-0 series lead in winning both its home games in the series. The series now shifts to Cleveland on Saturday, and the Cavs are 6.5-point favorites according to oddsmakers at 5dimes. The betting total is set at 205 points. Game 1 saw a point total of 191 and Game 2 the teams combined for 201.
Part of the reason for the increase in point total may be that Tyronn Lue wants to increase the pace of the game. He feels the limitation of James has been best achieved through strong traps in the half court, and getting out in transition may get the Cavaliers some easier looks. Kevin Love did score 22 points on 9 of 18 shooting in Game 2, but only one other Cavalier (Kyle Korver, 11 points) even reached double-figures. Cleveland shot 46.3 percent from the field, but it turned the ball over 15 times and only had 18 assists.
Comparatively, Boston had just five turnovers while coming up with 24 assists as a team. Every starter had at least two assists, and Marcus Smart had a huge game off the bench with 11 points, nine assists, five rebounds and four steals while posting a +21 mark for his 31 minutes of play. He could rightly be called Boston’s secret weapon and the key to the series because whether he was the primary defender on James or came to assist a teammate, he disrupted Cleveland’s offense in a noticeable way. Smart is the mini-Draymond of the East, at a minimum, and he completes a six-man rotation that Brad Stevens has settled into. Only Aron Baynes (17 minutes) saw any significant court time outside of the starters and Smart.
The Cavaliers are going to need much more from JR Smith. He shot 0 of 7 from the field and was ineffective on defense, finishing with a -6 mark for his 27 minutes of play. Larry Nance Jr. also has struggled to find his way in Cleveland’s half-court offense, while Rodney Hood has been a near non-factor, as he scored just 2 points on 1 of 2 shooting in Game 2.
Hood was once a double-digit scorer in Utah, but James has not been getting his teammates involved well. Jordan Clarkson did not even play, and he was a starter for the Lakers. What is the plan to get more from a bench without at least getting them in the game? Is this James’ call or Lue’s? And will we see Clarkson more as the Cavaliers look for scoring options off of its bench?
Jayson Tatum is quietly showing that he is the real rookie of the year. While certain not to win the award over Donovan Mitchell or Ben Simmons, Tatum has been playing outstanding defense and making the smart moves on the offensive end. He finished with just 11 points and three rebounds in Game 2, but his 32 minutes were solid ones, and he made several of the hockey-variety assists in addition to his two recorded assists. Tatum’s high IQ and great motor dictate he will continue to succeed, but a major task looms if he draws Kevin Durant defensively after covering James so much in this series. For now, his task remains on slowing James, along with his teammates, but Tatum is putting together one of the most impressive postseasons runs for a rookie in NBA history, and it seems like only some are even taking notice of that.