Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM

Game 5 - Cavs at Celtics

Playoff Results | Daily Projections

Eastern Conference Finals – Game 5 (Series tied 2-2)
Cleveland at Boston (ESPN, 8:35 p.m. ET)

After dropping back-to-back games at TD Garden and facing a 0-2 deficit, Cleveland bounced back with a pair of victories over Boston at home and evened up the Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2.

Monday’s 111-102 victory in Game 4 was similar to the outcome in Game 3 and the Cavaliers jumped on the Celtics early and did just enough to capture the win and more importantly cover as seven-point home favorites.

Cleveland led 34-18 after the first 12 minutes and held a 15-point lead at the break (68-53), cashing first-half tickets (-4 ½). Unlike Game 3, the Celtics showed a lot of fight in the second-half and outscored Cleveland 49-43 in the final 24 minutes. Boston cut the margin to as low as seven points on two occasions (96-89, 100-93) in the fourth quarter but Cleveland responded in both instances.

Instead of playing facilitator, LeBron James dominated the Celtics with 44 points on 17-of-28 field goal attempts plus a respectable 9-of-13 from the free-throw line. Of the 44, only three of those points came from distance and he only produced five rebounds and three assists, both lows in this series.

Cleveland received great production from guards George Hill (13) and Kyle Korver (14), who combined for 27 points. Tristan Thompson also put forth a solid effort with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 25 points in the losing effort and even though all five starters for Boston posted double figures, Boston only shot 41 percent from the floor and just 9-of-28 (32%) from 3-point land. While those percentages certainly aren’t great, they did improve from the Game 3 numbers (39%, 27%) when they were run by 30 points. NBA expert Joe Nelson was impressed by Boston’s effort in the final three quarters on Monday and expects a turnaround in Game 5.

“If you take out the first quarter on Monday, Boston outscored the Cavaliers by seven points in the final three frames and lost by only nine points despite Cleveland shooting more than nine percent better from the floor. The Cavaliers were forced into 19 turnovers but won the rebounding battle and got a few close calls late to hold off a challenge by the Celtics. Foul trouble was costly for the Celtics and despite LeBron James and Kevin Love combining for 53 points the Celtics forced Cleveland’s stars into 13 turnovers and poor outside shooting. James was able to get to the paint with ease and Kyle Korver had his second straight big game off the bench. Korver hasn’t shot as well on the road and now the Celtics will have an opportunity to get back in front in this series,” said Nelson.

While LeBron gets all the headlines in Cleveland, the team’s play has been very dependent on the backcourt as Nelson mentioned. Korver and Hill combined for 10 points for Cleveland in Game 1 and 14 points in Game 2. Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue has been bringing Korver off the bench the last three games and he’s responded with 11, 14 and 14 points.

Including Monday’s result, the home team is now 4-0 both straight up and against the spread in this series and the outcomes have been decided by an average of 19.3 points per game.

Should bettors continue to ride that angle and back the Celtics in Game 5?

After watching Golden State lose to Houston in Game 4 at Oracle Arena last night, Boston remains the only team in this year’s playoffs not to lose at home.

The Celtics have gone 9-0 both SU and ATS at TD Garden while winning by an average of 11.3 PPG.

Oddsmakers at [...] opened this matchup at a pick ‘em. However, as of Wednesday morning the Celtics received some overnight love and are listed as 1 ½-point favorites (-105) at the global shop. With the line being this short, it’s safe to say that the point-spread won’t factor into tonight’s decision.

If the number does swing to Cleveland, bettors should note that Boston has gone 10-1 SU and 11-0 ATS as a home underdog this season. NBA expert Kevin Rogers took a closer look at this year’s playoffs and touched on what’s transpired in Game 5’s.

He explained, “This is the fourth instance in the 2018 playoffs that a series is tied at 2-2. The home team has won each of the first three times, while covering twice. Boston entered Game 5 of the opening round with Milwaukee knotted up at 2-2 as the Celtics barely cashed as 4 ½-point favorites, 92-87. The only team that picked up a victory and failed to cover was Cleveland in the first round, edging Indiana on a James buzzer-beating three-pointer, 98-95.”

LeBron has played in plenty of playoff games but this particular scenario is uncommon for the All-Star.

“The last time James and the Cavaliers played a road game in a playoff series tied at 2-2 came in the 2015 Finals against the Warriors. Golden State pulled away from Cleveland, 104-91 as 9 ½-point favorites as the Warriors eventually won the title. James has not covered a Game 5 in a series locked up at 2-2 since the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals as a member of the Heat, beating the Pacers by 11 points,” added Rogers.

For those wondering, Nelson offered this betting stat to VI.

Going back to 1991 home teams are 31-14 straight up in conference finals Game 5 matchups and that includes a 6-1 against the spread record since 2013.

The total for Game 5 opened at 206 and has held steady. The ‘over’ (205) connected in Game 4 which was the first time the high side cashed in this series. The ‘over’ was the right side in Game 2 but the pair only combined for 40 points in the fourth quarter.

Savvy bettors playing halves should make a note that the ‘under’ has connected in the second-half of each of the first four games. The ‘under’ has gone 3-1 in the first-half.

Bettors leaning to the high side can’t fault Brad Stevens and the Celtics in this series. Boston has posted triple digits on the scoreboard in eight of nine home games in the postseason and that’s helped the ‘over’ go 6-3. Since the head coach took over, the ‘over’ is 15-9 at home for Boston in the playoffs.

Both clubs are looking at a team total in the neighborhood of 102 to 103 points for Game 5.

The Cavaliers have watched the ‘under’ go 4-3 on the road in this year’s playoffs and that’s a little surprising since they’ve only held one team under 100 points, which came in Game 3’s loss of the first round to Indiana (92-90). Plus Cleveland’s offense has been held in check for the most part as well. If you take away the two victories in their second-round sweep over Toronto where they scored 128 and 113 at the Air Canada Centre, the club has been held to 91.6 PPG in their five other away games this postseason.

In four games at TD Garden this season, Boston has kept Cleveland under triple digits three times with the one outlier coming in February when Cleveland posted a 121-99 regular season win. The Cavs hit 16-of-30 shots from 3-point land in that win and an effort similar to that one would certainly give them a 3-2 series lead tonight.

Prior to Game 1, the Cavaliers were minus-260 favorites to win this series and after facing a 2-0 deficit, they were pushed to +190 underdogs. Headed to Game 5, Cleveland is back to the series favorite (-185) over the Celtics (+160).  

Game 6 will take place on Friday at Quicken Loans Arena from Cleveland.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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