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Game 2 - Cavaliers at Celtics
Editor’s Note: Brian Edwards is on an 13-6 run (68.4%, +6.55 Units) in the NBA playoffs since April 30. Even better, Brian has cashed his guaranteed plays at an 18-5 clip (78.3%, +12.6 Units) since April 14! Don’t miss out on his next pay-if-it wins-only selection or you’ll regret it, and you can get signed up with Brian through the rest of the postseason at this discounted price!

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.

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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.

Veteran VegasInsider.com NBA analyst Tony Mejia offered this take on tonight’s tally: “The Game 2 total is going to close a little lower than the series opener unless there’s a late surge on over bets closer to tip-off. Due to Cleveland’s 4-for-26 3-point shooting, Game 1’s final score never had a shot at approaching even 200 due to how non-competitive the final few minutes were following Boston’s 18-4 run to open the fourth quarter. Tristan Thompson is likely drawing the start in an attempt to slow down Al Horford, which should lead to fewer possessions and more of a halfcourt game, but the Cavs are more likely to shoot the ball better. If Boston can at least duplicate the 36.7 percent clip it managed from beyond the arc on Sunday, we should see a game where both teams wind up eclipsing the century mark. That said, I don’t see the teams combining for 56 3-point attempts again, so keep that in mind before pulling the trigger on these teams surpassing the posted total.”

Meanwhile, VI”s Chris David likes Boston’s team total to go ‘over.’ David said, “It’s really remarkable what the Celtics have been able to do offensively at home in the playoffs, especially with a short-handed squad. Including the effort in Game 1, Boston is averaging 107 PPG in its 23 playoff games at TD Garden under Brad Stevens, and that’s translated into a 15-8 ‘over’ record.”

David continued, “Many would think that the Cavaliers’ offense will rebound, especially from 3-point land, but we saw the 76ers struggle from distance against Boston. Rather than hope Cleveland catches fire from the outside, I’ll play the percentages and go against their defense. That unit has allowed triple digits in six of seven games on the road in this year’s playoffs, and that has me leaning Boston’s Team Total Over (102) in Game 2.”

Tip-off is scheduled for 8:35 p.m. Eastern tonight on ESPN.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Cleveland is 14-7 ATS in 21 games as an underdog this season.

-- When Boston has been favored by one to 2.5 points this year, it has a 9-4 spread record.

-- Unless Kevin Durant or Steph Curry get injured, these playoffs are a wrap with Golden State poised to repeat as NBA champions. The Warriors thumped Houston in last night’s series opener at Toyota Center, winning a 119-106 decision as 1.5-point road underdogs. The 225 combined points dipped ‘under’ the closing 225.5-point tally. However, the number was at 224 for several days and spent most of Monday at 225. Therefore, when James Harden fouled Andre Iguodala with 12.1 seconds remaining, the fate of many wagers on the total was on the line. Chris Paul had made a layup with 21.4 ticks left to make it 117-106. Even with the shot clock off, Harden fouled and Iguodala buried both FTs. Kevin Durant paced the winners with 37 points, while Klay Thompson had 28 points on 6-of-15 shooting from long distance. Harden had a game-high 41 points and seven assists.

--The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas opened Houston as a two-point home favorite for Game 2 vs. Golden State. The total was sent out at 225.5 points, while the Warriors were +110 to win outright (risk $100 to win $110).

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

  
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