Boston Strong: Celtics in Early Control Of East Finals

The Boston Celtics held serve and maintain home-court advantage as they travel to Cleveland with a 2-0 series lead in hand in the Eastern Conference Finals. Let’s check out the odds on the Game 3 matchup on Saturday night and discuss where the series is headed.

Boston Strong

The Celtics have handled the Cavaliers with relative ease over their first two meetings in Boston, winning the first by 25 and then responding with a 107-94 Game 2 victory on Tuesday night. Perhaps it was their most recent victory which better illustrated the difference between these two Eastern Conference foes. The Cavaliers jumped out to a seven-point halftime lead, but the gritty, determined and youthful Boston squad would not wither despite a herculean effort by LeBron James, who torched the Green for 42 points after struggling through a 15 point performance in the opening game of the series.

The Celtics would not be denied, and as we stated before the series began this is a test of one legendary player versus a team of blossoming superstars. Boston’s Terry Rozier, the 16th pick in the 2015 draft, was an afterthought in the Celtics’ rotation until his playing time increased and his game elevated dramatically, particularly after the injury to Kyrie Irving catapulted him from understudy to leading man.

But Rozier is not the only young gun in Boston’s arsenal as the third overall pick in last year’s draft, rookie Jayson Tatum, has exceeded Boston’s lofty expectations with a swagger normally reserved for accomplished veteran players. Jaylen Brown, only in his second year and the third overall pick in the 2016 draft, has also matured in his sophomore campaign averaging nearly 18 points per game in the postseason and dropped an identical 23 points on Cleveland in their first two meetings.

The score sheet will tell you that the Celtics’ starting five all scored in double figures in Game 2 while defensive wizard Marcus Smart added 11 off the bench. But what it doesn’t indicate are the muscles being flexed in the form of Marcus Morris driving to the hoop and getting mugged by Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson only to rise from the floor while growling “and one” directly in Thompson’s face. Celtics center Aron Baynes launched his 6’10” frame to the floor in a scrum with Larry Nance Jr. and emerged by flashing his tongue to the crowd rock-star style.

Tatum showed little regard for LeBron when he leveled a shoulder check square to the King’s jaw that shook the rafters of the Garden crowd. Veteran All-Star center Al Horford exchanged unpleasantries with JR Smith after Smith shoved Horford from behind. It was a smaller, younger teammate sticking up for a much bigger, more veteran teammate. The Celtics are playing aggressive team basketball and their chemistry is getting stronger with each game. Perhaps Cavaliers coach Tyrone Lue summed it up best:

“We’ve got to be tougher. I think they’re playing tougher than we are. We see that. They’re being physical. They’re gooning the game up and we’ve got to do the same thing.”

What Are the Odds?

Your first betting click should always be to Sportsbook Review as they have lines from all the best online sportsbooks in one convenient place. SBR Odds is a go-to site, and after perusing the numbers being offered in Game 3, the Cavaliers are being dealt as 6½-point favorites across the board, just a day after Boston’s Game 2 victory. Obviously, the change in venue has everything to do with the Cavaliers being dealt as such substantial favorites over a team that just handed them consecutive double-digit losses.

The series price has reversed itself since the initial offering with Boston now a -215 favorite to claim the Eastern Conference title while the return on Cleveland is +180. The Shamrocks are in control of the series, and a win on Saturday night would put a rear-naked choke on the Cavs that would make Anderson Silva proud.

Maybe the Cavs bounce back, the King retains his throne, and Cleveland spars again with the Warriors (or Rockets) for the NBA’s heavyweight crown. Or maybe – just maybe — the upstart Celtics, after losing arguably their two best players in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, maintain their roll and take this Cinderella journey through the postseason all the way to a world title. Wouldn’t that be something?!

Comments

Get the Daily Outkick

* indicates required