Al Horford. Photo credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
- Boston has surprised bettors with its successful playoff run.
- The Celtics are a relatively sizable underdog at Cleveland for Game 3, which indicates the market expects the Cavs to bounce back from their two series-opening losses.
- As we saw in Game 3 of the Celtics-Sixers series, however, the expected bounce-back performance doesn’t always happen.
The entire Boston playoff run has been filled with wins when people thought they wouldn’t happen — and series wins when people thought they were impossible. So now, in a situation where the market expects a bounce-back Cleveland performance, the Cavs, who were significantly outplayed in Games 1 and 2, are 6.5-point favorites. Not only that, Game 3 matches the team that was the best all season as an underdog against a team that was hideous as a favorite. I’ll remember these Celtics for many years, as they’ve continually perplexed gamblers and the market. So what is there to do here?
I think this number is a little big, to be honest. Whatever you choose to factor into your power rating representing Cleveland’s home-court advantage, it’s still unlikely you come up with 6.5 as the true number — especially when considering the first two games of the series.
This identical situation presented itself in the Philadelphia-Boston series, where the Sixers were installed as an even bigger favorite in Game 3 after dropping the first two in Boston. But Philadelphia lost outright in overtime. Although there aren’t really relevant things to draw on to compare these two games (they are independent events), it does show that sometimes the market is dead wrong when it expects a bounceback. That can happen.
The difference between where the number is and what I think it should be isn’t big enough for me to play this, but let’s call the Celtics a lean at +6.5 and maybe wait for a better spot to play them a little later on in the series.
On some level, I really think these teams just are who they are. Those who are predicting Celtics regression refuse to believe they are what they’ve shown throughout the playoffs, and those predicting a Cleveland bounceback refuse to believe the Cavs’ clear lack of talent and playoff experience.
It’s the definition of insanity, right? It’s the definition of insanity, NBA Playoffs edition.