How to Leverage the Curious Game 2 Total in Cavs-Celtics

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Celtics coach Brad Stevens and guars Jaylen Brown. Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the Boston +2 to 2.5 games in the series bet from the preview guide got a strong boost from that Game 1 victory, so good news there for those who followed along.

Game 1 was not an aberration by any means. Yes, the Cavs shot very poorly from 3, but the idea that the Celtics’ defense is going to become poorer as the series goes along — or that their offense will be less inclined to move the ball and force mismatches — just won’t hold water. This is every bit the challenge I thought coming in for Cleveland, and then some.

What does it mean for Game 2?

It’s easy to look at the box score from Game 1 and think, “OK, Cleveland is going to make some more 3s most of the time, and LeBron James is going to be more aggressive most of the time, so it’s the Cavs’ turn in Game 2.” Honestly, even if both of those things happen, and happen to great significance, I’m not sure that comes close to guaranteeing a Cleveland victory, especially when the Celtics play so well at home. I have no interest in taking a side here.

What is interesting to me is that this total dipped 1.5 to 2 points from the Game 1 closing number (it sits currently at 203), and I’m not entirely sure why. The game Sunday was absolutely played at a pace to hit a total in the Game 1 closing range, and Cleveland played its worst offensive game of the postseason. If the Cavs shoot at all better, which is almost a certainty because of how pitiful the numbers were Sunday, they will do their part in terms of hitting the over here.

The Celtics’ success, meanwhile, wasn’t predicated on some absurdly hot shooting that is bound to regress; rather, it was based on mismatches (Al Horford against Kevin Love for large portions of the first half, hunting Kyle Korver wherever he went on the court, etc.) that will linger throughout the series.

The Celtics are going to find your weak spots and attack them. Boston’s offense can run that type of game back over and over again in this type of matchup, even if Ty Lue chooses to mix his personnel a bit differently. With LeBron more aggressive, the Cavaliers even slightly improving their shooting, Boston likely to maintain its offensive success, and the market being given a two-point discount after Game 1, I will be playing the over at the current number of 203.

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