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Can the Celtics Upset the Cavaliers Again in Game 4?
The Celtics will keep it close in Game 5
All odds brought to you by Topbet.
By Dan Favale
In the most fundamental sense, it's weird that we're calling the Boston Celtics' Game 3 come-from-behind victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers an upset. Boston finished the regular season as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Cleveland should theorectically be the underdog.
It's also weird that, one game after losing badly against a 14-point spread, the Cavaliers are actually 15-point favorites.
It's not like other best-of-seven sets. The Cavaliers aren't underdogs. How could they be? They have LeBron James. They're the reigning champions. They have basically steamrolled everyone in their way this postseason, flipping a switch on and off at will, with the exception of Sunday night's loss.
One letdown, though, doesn't change anything. The Cavaliers deserve to be these heavy favorites. LeBron isn't going to shoot 4-of-13 from the field again. The Cavaliers won't muster just two three-point makes in the second half of Game 4. Both Kyrie irving and Kevin Love won't start out blistering hot only to fade down the stretch.
Equally important, the Celtics won't get seven three-pointers from Marcus Smart in Game 4. And they most definitely won't enjoy as much defensive success against LeBron as they did on Sunday. His problems were self-inflicted. Credit Jae Crowder for raising hell, but James looked disinterested and, by his usual standards, lethargic.
Think that happens again? After his team's first lost of the postseason? After the Golden State Warriors just secured their place in the NBA Finals with a clean sweep of the San Antonio Spurs? Not a chance
And don't let Game 3 fool you: The Celtics aren't better off with Isaiah Thomas. They're a better defensive team for sure. Aspects of this series might even mean they are better overall. But there will come a time when the offensive bogs down and there's no one around to drag it out of said malaise. Who will step up then? Smart? Terry Rozier? Avery Bradley? Al Horford? We don't know.
And yet, there is still cause for us to think the Celtics can keep things relatively close.
For one, they continue to miss shots they shouldn't and typically don't. They're hitting just 27.5 percent of their three-pointers where defenders are four or more feet away from them, according to NBA.com. Though they're shooting at a higher clip when defenders are six or more feet away, this number needs to climb. And it will climb. As we've said before, this is unsustainably bad shooting.
That's not enough of a silver lining to pick the Celtics to tie up this series. But inevitably better shooting from people not named Marcus Smart combined with the defensive resourcefulness they showed when erasing a 21-point lead in Game 3 suggests this 15-point spread is a little harsh—and, most importantly, too ambitious for the Cavaliers.
The Pick: Boston Celtics (+15)
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