There have been few surprises in the 2017 NBA Playoffs, and it’s hard to believe that trend won’t continue in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals. The Boston Celtics will try to upset the Cleveland Cavaliers in the best-of-seven series, though the seemingly inevitable NBA Finals rematch is almost set in stone.
Good luck finding any predictions that have the Celtics winning the series, and the betting odds are heavily in Cleveland’s favor. The Cavs are -700 favorites at Westgate Las Vegas Super Book, and Boston is a +500 underdog.
Towards the end of the regular season, talk picked up regarding the idea of Cleveland potentially falling short of the NBA Finals. The Cavs struggled on defense, entering the playoffs with 24 losses in 49 games. LeBron James had a real chance to lose a playoff series to an Eastern Conference team for the first time since 2010, or so it seemed.
All the Cavs have done since then is sweep two straight series and look like a legitimate threat to defeat the Golden State Warriors for a second consecutive year.
The play of James has arguably been the most shocking part of an otherwise predictable postseason. It’s not as if anyone is surprised that the world’s best basketball player has dominated the playoffs, but he’s inexplicably performing better than he has at any point in his career.
That’s not supposed to happen for someone that’s 32 years old, in year No.14 and has totaled more career minutes than the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
But that’s exactly what James is doing, averaging 34.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.1 assists on 20.9 shots per game. The four-time MVP has been terrific in literally every 2017 playoff game, never failing to total at least 25 points, six rebounds and four assists. He hasn’t shot less than 50 percent from the field once, and he’s making 46.8 percent of his three-pointers. James has even corrected the weakest part of his game, making 83.3 percent of his free throws in four games against the Toronto Raptors.
How are the Celtics supposed to beat a top two all-time player when he’s putting up the best numbers of his life?
James is the driving force behind Cleveland’s eight-game winning streak, though he hasn’t done it alone. The numbers for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love aren’t what they were in the regular season, but the Cavs as a whole are hitting a large percent of their shots. The team is shooting 49 percent from the field and 43.4 percent from three-point range, making 14.4 shots from beyond the arc per game.
Defensively, the Cavs have picked it up, as well. The Raptors were a top-10 offensive team in the regular season, and they never scored more than 105 points against Cleveland. Half the league scored at least 105 points per game this year.
Cleveland might be hard-pressed to get another sweep. No team has gone undefeated on their way to the NBA Finals since the 2001 Lakers, and the Cavs have had their share of close calls in the playoffs. None of their wins against the Pacers came by more than six points, and they found themselves trailing in the fourth quarter of both games in Toronto. The Cavs lost two games to the Raptors in the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals after going undefeated in the first two rounds.
Boston should be able to score against Cleveland’s questionable defense, and having home-court advantage will only help. Falling short of the No.1 seed could force the Cavs to play a longer series than they’d like, considering the way Boston has performed at home. The Celtics have won five straight games at TD Garden, averaging 119.6 points per contest.
Finishing the regular season as the NBA’s third-leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas has remained a dynamic scorer in the playoffs. In seven home postseason games, the point guard is averaging 30 points on 20 shots, and he could put up some big numbers against the Cavs.
But winning a game or two should be as close as the Celtics get to reaching the NBA Finals.
Go back to April 5, when the Cavs visited the Celtics for the final time in the regular season. The two teams entered the night with the exact same record in what many assumed would be a conference finals preview. James left no doubt that Boston wouldn’t stop Cleveland when their chance came, putting up 36 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in a 23-point victory.
That version of LeBron James has shown up all postseason long, and Boston will have no answers, once again.
Series Prediction: Cleveland in five
Source : http://www.ibtimes.com/cleveland-cavaliers-vs-boston-celtics-prediction-betting-odds-2017-eastern-conference-2539651