Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM

Game 3 - Celtics at Cavaliers

The remarkable run of seven consecutive trips to the NBA Finals by LeBron James is in jeopardy of ending as the Cavaliers trail the Celtics, 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals. This series isn’t over by any stretch, but Cleveland needs to take care of its home-court advantage the next two games, while taking advantage of Boston’s road woes in the playoffs.

After the Celtics destroyed the Cavaliers from the tip-off in Game 1 by 25 points, Cleveland must have felt good about evening up the series through 24 minutes in Game 2. The Cavaliers led at halftime, 55-48, but the Celtics blitzed Cleveland in the third quarter, 36-22 to pull away for a 107-94 victory. For the second straight time in this series, the game finished UNDER the total (205 ½), while Boston improved to 9-0 SU and 7-2 ATS at TD Garden in the playoffs.

James carried the Cavaliers again by producing a triple-double with 42 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists. Unfortunately, only two other Cavs registered in double-figures as Kevin Love (22 points) and Kyle Korver (11 points) were the only other main providers to Cleveland’s offensive attack. The starting backcourt of J.R. Smith and George Hill combined to score three points on 1-of-11 shooting, as the only positive is Cleveland knocked down 10 three-pointer in Game 2 compared to only four in the opener.

All five Celtics’ starters finished in double-figures in Game 2, led by guard Jaylen Brown’s 23 points. Al Horford produced his sixth double-double of the playoffs by scoring 15 points and pulling down 10 rebounds, while Terry Rozier continued his strong postseason with 18 points, bouncing back from an eight-point performance in Game 1.

Now that the Celtics have taken care of their business at home, the task the next two games for Brad Stevens’ club is to fix their 1-4 SU and 2-3 ATS record away from TD Garden in the playoffs. Boston lost all three road games at Milwaukee in the first round, while scoring less than 92 points in two of those defeats. The lone away victory came at Philadelphia in Game 3 of the conference semifinals, 101-98 in overtime. Boston scored only 89 points in regulation in that win, while following it up with a 92-point effort in a Game 4 loss.

The Cavaliers have been a questionable wager at home during the playoffs by posting an ugly 1-5 ATS mark. Tyronn Lue’s squad has won five straight games at Quicken Loans Arena since a 98-80 drubbing at the hands of Indiana to open up the playoffs, while limiting opponents to less than 100 points in four of six home contests. However, four of the victories came by four points or fewer, while the Cavs own an 0-3 ATS record as a home favorite of six points or more in the playoffs.

In James’ career, he has never trailed an Eastern Conference opponent 3-0 in a playoff series, but has been down 2-0 to an Eastern foe three times. All three instances came in his first go-around with Cleveland, as the Cavs beat the Pistons in 2006 and 2007 when trailing 2-0. In 2006, Cleveland lost to Detroit in seven games, while knocking out the Pistons in six games in ’07. In 2008, the Cavs routed the Celtics at home, 108-84, but eventually lost the series in seven games.

The Celtics haven’t visited Cleveland since that fateful opening night on October 17 when newly acquired Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome leg injury five minutes into his Boston tenure. The Cavaliers won that game, 102-99, but failed to cash as 4 ½-point favorites. In last season’s conference finals, the Celtics covered in both visits to Cleveland, albeit as 15-point underdogs each time, including an upset in Game 3 by a 111-108 score after overcoming a 16-point halftime deficit.

Chris David of talked about a popular playoff betting trend that focuses on the first-half and it’s turned out to be a good look. He filled us in on the details.

“Even though social media and betting forums don’t bring out the best in people, it’s become a solid resource for information,” said David. “According to numbers from different sources and industry folks, teams down 0-2 in a playoff series while playing Game 3 at home have gone 31-4 ATS (88%) in the last four postseasons.”

David added, “The system makes sense and the results aren’t surprising when you consider that the home team is facing a deficit and the sense of urgency will be high at home, at least for the first 24 minutes. Backing the investment blindly this year has produced a profitable 4-2 mark with the Wizards, Timberwolves, Bucks and Pelicans earning Game 3 wins at home after being down 2-0. The two losses came by the Spurs in the first round and the 76ers in the second round.”

“While San Antonio couldn’t muster up a quality effort at home (52-46) to Golden State in Game 3, Philadelphia actually held a 51-48 lead over Boston in Game 3 at halftime. However, the oddsmakers had the club listed as a 7 ½-point favorite and that line was inflated. Fast forward to Saturday’s matchup and the oddsmakers have juiced up Cleveland’s first-half number to -5 ½.”

Even though the ‘under’ cashed in each of the first two games, the total for Game 3 stayed in the same neighborhood for Game 3. David offered up his handicap on the Saturday’s number.

He said, “While the ‘under’ in Game 1 was the right side, the same can’t be said for Game 2. If it wasn’t for a 40-point fourth quarter on Tuesday, the high side connects and bettors who lost can clearly point to Cleveland’s inept offense.”

“The one tendency that continues to stick out in this year’s playoffs is Boston’s offense, which has been held to 94.6 PPG in five away games. If you look at the Celtics under Stevens, these results aren’t surprising. Since he took over, the club hasn’t performed well out of TD Garden and are only averaging 98.2 PPG and that’s helped the ‘under’ go 13-5. As much criticism as Cleveland takes, deservingly, the unit has been much better at home. In this year’s playoffs, they’re surrendering 97.8 PPG. All those numbers have me leaning ‘under’ in the game but the better investment for me is on the Celtics Team Total Under (99 ½).”

The Celtics head into Game 3 as a -225 series favorite at [...], while the Cavaliers sit at +190 to capture the series.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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