Sometimes when you think you have a series figured out, you find out you don’t. The Boston Celtics had no business winning Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Cleveland on Sunday without All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas but that’s what happened. Could Boston actually tie the series up with another road upset on Tuesday?
Boston at Cleveland NBA Playoffs Lines & Game 4 Betting Preview
Why Bet On Boston?
Avery Bradley’s 3-pointer danced on the rim and dropped with less than a second left and Boston, blown out in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals and playing without Thomas, stunned the Cavaliers 111-108 on Sunday night in Game 3 to end the champions’ 13-game postseason winning streak. Bradley finished with 20 points. He didn’t shoot well overall, at 8-of- 23 from the field, but he added four assists, three rebounds and two steals without any turnovers in 42 minutes.
Marcus Smart started Game 3 in place of Thomas, scoring a career-high 27 points on 8-of- 14 FGs, including seven 3-pointers, with seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and one block in 41 minutes. Smart scored 20+ points just four times during the regular season, while shooting 35.9 percent from the field, and he chose an ideal time to break out offensively. Brad Stevens admitted that with Smart starting in place of Thomas the Celtics are “a little bit bigger across the board [defensively],” and they limited the Cavs’ high-powered offense to a relatively low 108 points.
Al Horford had 16 points and six assists. Horford had been 0-14 in his playoff career against teams featuring LeBron James, including 0-12 during his days with the Atlanta Hawks. Kelly Olynyk was also effective with 15 points (5-of- 8 FGs, 4-of- 4 FTs), three rebounds and two assists, and Boston used their size to score 36 points in the paint vs. 24 for the Cavs.
The Celtics trailed by as much as 18 in the first half of Sunday’s game, and then they fell behind 77-56 with 6:39 left in the third quarter. It was the unexpected combination of Smart and Jonas Jerebko (10 points and plus-22 in plus/minus over 12:32 of playing time) that spearheaded Boston’s feverish second- half charge. The Celtics, a 16.5-point underdog entering the game, pulled off the largest playoff upset in the past two decades.
Thomas is out the rest of the playoffs with a hip injury. He aggravated a right hip strain in Game 2 and did not play in the second half. He had missed all six of his shots before departing. Thomas’ official injury is a right femoral-acetabular impingement with a labral tear. He originally suffered the injury in the third quarter of Boston’s March 15 game against the Timberwolves. Thomas missed the next two games against the Nets and 76ers, but had appeared in every game since then.
Why Bet On Cleveland?
I don’t think you can count on the Cavs blowing a 21-point lead again. Or LeBron James playing so terribly. James had just 11 points in Game 3, of which only three came in the second half as he went 1-of-9 shooting and had an unusual vanishing act when his team needed him. The Cavaliers’ 21-point blown lead was the largest of James’ postseason career. His teams were previously 49-0 after leading by 20 points or more.
That was stunning because over the past month, James had never been better, racking up nine straight 30-point games to tie a Michael Jordan record and 10 straight games of 25 points and 50 percent shooting, a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar record. He’s never been hotter. It’s the fourth time in his postseason career that he’s scored fewer than a dozen points.
“I had a tough game, period — not just in the second half,” James said after the fourth-lowest- scoring playoff game of his career, which has spanned 210 postseason games. “Me personally, I didn’t have it. My teammates did a great job of keeping us in the game, building that lead. But me personally, I didn’t have it. That’s all I’ve got to say about my performance.”
In the final 16:31 of Game 3, LeBron was 0-of- 4 from the field with 2 turnovers, 1 rebound, 1 assist and no points. His 11 points were his fewest in 107 career home playoff games. They were his fewest points overall since May 28, 2014, when he scored seven points against the Indiana Pacers with the Miami Heat. It was the second time in his playoff career that he was held scoreless in a fourth quarter in which he played the entire period. The first was the Heat’s Game 4 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals, in which he finished with eight points.
It was James’ first playoff game with fewer than 15 points and five or more turnovers (he had six) since May 6, 2008, which also came against the Celtics. He played 169 playoff games between those two games. It was the second time in the past 10 seasons that he scored the fewest points among his team’s five starters (the other was Game 5 of the 2014 East finals, in which he was held to seven points due in large part to foul trouble).
Kevin Love made 8-of- 16 field goals with seven 3-pointers on Sunday, scoring 28 points with 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in 36 minutes of action. Love hit all seven of his 3-pointers in the first half, a perimeter barrage that kept Boston at bay and set a franchise record for first-half triples.
Boston at Cleveland NBA Playoffs Betting Pick Game 4: Boston Celtics
Cleveland will win but take all those points. Boston is a better defensive team with Thomas out.