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[BKL] May 13, 2018

NBA Playoffs Betting Preview: Cavaliers at Celtics

By Gracenote

Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics (+1.5; 204.5)

The Boston Celtics have thrived as underdogs and they get a chance to relish the role again when they take on the almighty LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final for the second straight season, beginning with Game 1 on Sunday in Boston. James steamrolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs while averaging 34.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and nine assists, throwing in a pair of buzzer-beaters along the way.

James has the opportunity to reach the NBA Finals for an eighth straight time. Standing in his way is an inspiring bunch in Boston that took care of the Philadelphia 76ers in five games in the semifinals, riding a much more balanced attack led by rookie Jayson Tatum (23.6 points per game versus the 76ers). Point guard Terry Rozier has become a star since replacing injured All-Star and former Cavalier Kyrie Irving, and is averaging 18.2 points in the playoffs while guiding a gritty group.

ABOUT THE CAVALIERS: Kevin Love averaged 22.6 points and 12.4 rebounds in last season's conference finals against Boston and seems primed to help James after finishing the second-round sweep of the Toronto Raptors in fine fashion. The 29-year-old scored at least 21 points in each of the final three games of that series after averaging 10.9 points on 31.9 percent shooting in his first eight contests this postseason, a stretch which drew some criticism in Cleveland.

ABOUT THE CELTICS: The Celtics struggled to slow down James in the one-sided matchup last spring - won by Cleveland in five games - but they feel they have more men to throw at him this time around. Big man Al Horford will be one of the many players to mark James at one time or another, and he is averaging 17 points on 57.8 percent shooting in the playoffs.


1. Cleveland won three games at Boston by an average of 30 points in last season's conference finals and also won by 22 at TD Garden in the most recent matchup between the teams Feb. 11.

2. Celtics PG Shane Larkin (shoulder) is likely unavailable until late in the series.

3. Tatum is a cousin of Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue and Tatum's godfather is James' former teammate, Larry Hughes.
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