The point spread is once again artificially inflated based on the fact that Cleveland has enjoyed over 4 points per game of positive variance in the NBA playoffs. Cleveland continued its torrid accuracy from beyond the arc in Game 3, shooting 16-of-39 (41.0%) from three-point territory.
The Cavaliers are making a ridiculous 43.0% of their three-point attempts this postseason, including converting 43.4% over the last five games.
That efficiency is unlikely to continue for a Cleveland squad that has made 38.9% of its 3-pointers overall in 2016-17. I also don’t expect Kevin Love to make 53.8% of his three-pointers (7-of-13) like he did in Game 3. In fact, Love made just 37.3% of his 3-point attempts during the regular season before suddenly catching fire in the NBA playoffs (47.1% 3-PT%).
I’m also not convinced that Cleveland’s defense is suddenly improved after being ranked 27th in the league in the second half of the regular season (and finished ranked 21st overall). Boston overcame a 21-point deficit with just 19 minutes left in Game 3 by finishing on a 55-31 run. The Celtics’ incredible 111-108 comeback victory was the largest playoff upset in the past two decades.
“It’s big. It’s big. A lot of people doubting us out there, thought we were finished,” said Al Horford, looking directly into the cameras at times and congratulating teammates as they walked past him to the locker room. “Heart. We got heart. This team’s got heart. We got beat bad, but it’s all about how you rebound, and we bounced back tonight.” Head coach Brad Stevens has repeatedly stated that his roster consists of players who “have chips on their shoulders.”
“A lot of these guys have been overlooked, and this is their first opportunity to really play a meaningful role,” Stevens said following Game 3. “And as they’ve continued to play and play better and better and better, they’ve just risen in their games and with our team.” Perhaps Marcus Smart summarized how Boston feels at this juncture of the season:
We’re going to go play with our backs against the wall, come out swinging. We’re going to go and play as hard as we can. We’re going to be the toughest team. We’re going to battle for the loose balls. We’re going to play hard, consistently, the entire game. We wanted to be that team. That was our mindset. We never counted ourselves out. We knew that if we came out and played hard, we would give ourselves a chance. You saw that tonight. And we’re going to continue to play that way throughout the series.
Everybody in this locker room, on this team, has been told we couldn’t do something or had somebody that really didn’t believe in us.
From a technical standpoint, the Celtics are 4-1-1 ATS in their last six trips to Cleveland, while the road team is a perfect 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings in this series. Boston is a profitable 6-2 ATS in its last 8 games following a win, 6-2 ATS in its last 8 road tilts, 13-6-2 ATS in its last 21 road games versus teams with a home win percentage of .601 or greater.
In contrast, the Cavaliers are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven home games and 2-5 ATS in their last seven games off a loss. Boston also falls into a very good 97-47 ATS system that invests on certain road underdogs with subpar defenses if they trailed by double-digits at the half in each of their last two games.
With Cleveland standing at 17-28 ATS after failing to cover the spread, 1-9 ATS off a home loss and 1-8 ATS off an upset loss at home this season, take the Celtics in Game 4 of the NBA Playoffs and invest with confidence.
Oskeim Sports’ NBA Playoffs Pick: Boston Celtics (+15) (-110)