The Cleveland Cavaliers might not be the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but they’re the team carrying the most chalk into Game 1, laying 11.5 points to the Boston Celtics on Sunday’s NBA odds board.
Jason’s record as of Apr. 17: 72-72-5 ATS, 10-15 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML
Who’s the best team in the Eastern Conference? According to the NBA standings, it’s the Atlanta Hawks, but we all know the real answer: the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’re the 1-2 favorites to win the East, according to the NBA odds on Bovada’s futures market as we go to press. And they’re gigantic –4000 favorites at The Greek to take down their first-round series against the Boston Celtics.
You normally have to visit the White Cliffs of Dover if you want to see that much chalk. We’re just barely willing to pay that series price on Cleveland to eliminate the Celtics, but we draw the line when it comes to the 11.5 points the Cavs are laying in Game 1 on Sunday (3:00 p.m. ET, ABC). Boston has been way too good to our NBA picks for us to jump off that train – not yet, at least.
Did we happen to mention that No. 1 seeds are 197-122 SU and 148-166-5 ATS in the playoffs over the past decade? Of course, the Cavaliers (53-29 SU, 39-43 ATS) are the No. 2 seeds in the East this year, but let’s not quibble over minor details. Cleveland is where the chalk is. The betting public wants to support LeBron James (25.9 PER), and maybe Kyrie Irving (21.5 PER) a little bit, with some table scraps left over for Kevin Love (18.8 PER). You could make the spread 20 points, and many of them would still bet on the Cavs.
Since it’s so darned easy to draw a line between the 2014-15 Cavaliers and the 2010-11 Miami Heat – LeBron’s first year in South Beach – let’s travel back in time to Game 1 of the 2011 Eastern Conference first-round series between the No. 2 Heat (oho~!) and the No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers. Miami was laying 10.5 points at home in that contest. Final score: Heat 97, Sixers 89. That’s a small sample size, sure, but Philadelphia also “won” the series 3-2 ATS despite getting eliminated in five games.
Enough about that LeBron guy. Let’s talk about the Celtics (40-42 SU, 49-32-1 ATS) and all the Kelly green they’ve been raking in this year. Boston is 20-11 SU and 20-10-1 ATS since switching gears at the trade deadline and pulling the trigger on the Isaiah Thomas trade. Thomas (22.3 PER) has been Boston’s most dynamic offensive performer, leading the team with a plus-6.4 OBPM and a robust 26.4 points per 36 minutes. Compare and contrast to James at 25.2 points per 36 minutes. Obviously, James does much more than score, and Thomas doesn’t do much else, but still: Thomas is scoring more often than James. Let that sink in.
Let’s not forget that the Thomas trade also brought Jonas Jerebko (15.5 PER) into the fold. Jerebko has been a valuable contributor off a Celtics bench that includes Thomas, Kelly Olynyk (15.9 PER) and Jae Crowder (14.1 PER). On top of that, Jared Sullinger (17.9 PER) has just come back from a lengthy absence, playing significant minutes in a reserve role during the last six regular-season games. Boston won all six SU and ATS.
We’re very happy to make the C’s our NBA pick for this matchup between Celtics & Cavs in Game 1. You’ve got the Cavaliers carrying all that chalk on their shoulders. You’ve got the Celtics, who are two years removed from trading away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a blatant case of tanking, and just got rid of Rajon Rondo (15.5 PER) in December. It’s about as close to a perfect storm as a handicapper could wish for.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Celtics at BetOnline