Cavaliers vs. Celtics Odds
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
|Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
Two of the best teams in the East meet for a showdown on Friday night at TD Garden when the 3-1 Cleveland Cavaliers travel to Boston to take on the reigning conference champion Celtics, who have also won three of their first four.
Let’s take a look at how both teams have started the year and see what edges we can find in the market.
No Garland, no problem (yet)
This is going to be the first real test for the Cavaliers this season, as they have wins over the Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic. Their lone loss came against the Toronto Raptors, a game in which they also lost their young star point guard, Darius Garland.
The 22-year-old, who was fresh off his first All-Star appearance and ready to co-lead one of the best backcourts in the league, suffered a left eye laceration that has kept him out since and will keep him out through at least Friday’s game.
However, Donovan Mitchell has picked up the slack in Garland’s absence and is averaging 28.5 points and 7.3 assists per game. The duo of Evan Mobley (15.5 ppg and 4.8 rpg) and Jarrett Allen (13.5 and 11.5, respectively) has also picked up right where they left off, with Caris Levert and either Isaac Okoro or Dean Wade filling out the starting lineup.
The Cavs have been one of the league’s staunchest defenses this season, allowing just 100.8 points per game, trailing only the Milwaukee Bucks. They play at a slow pace (27th in the NBA), control the boards (sixth in defensive rebound rate) and don’t allow many looks from beyond the arc (third-fewest allowed this season).
This is no surprise given that the team made its name on defense last year, finishing fifth in the league in defense.
Mazzulla is getting results but in a different way
One of the four teams to finish last season with a better defense than the Cavs was the Celtics. In fact, Boston allowed the fewest points per game under Ime Udoka in his first season and rode that defense all the way to the Finals.
This season has seen success, but in a different manner. The Celtics have the third-best offensive net rating in 2022-23, but the third-worst defensive rating. Part of that is obviously just small sample size. However, it is definitely worth monitoring given the shakeup in the coaching staff.
The Udoka situation drew the most attention, but this is also a team that lost Will Hardy to the Utah Jazz this offseason. Joe Mazzulla and his staff are clearly getting Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown rolling on the offensive side, but the defense has yet to click.
In fact, the Celtics are fresh off allowing 120 points to the Bulls in their first loss of the season. Even more shocking, however, was the 126 they allowed the game before in a win over the Magic. Allowing that many points to the Magic is no easy feat.
However, as noted, the offense has been elite. Tatum has upped his scoring to 32.5 points per game, thanks to not to an increase in volume, but efficiency. His field goal percentage has shot up from 45.2% to 55.6%. There is definitely room for growth in this young star, but a leap that big seems due for some regression.
These are two stud defenses and they are also two of the slowest-paced teams in the league (both ranking in the bottom six).
The best bet is Al Horford under 7.5 rebounds, which DraftKings has at plus money. Horford is averaging just 5.0 rebounds per game this season and seems more than content to do the dirty work and let his teammates collect the actual rebounds. He’s grabbing just 50% of his rebound chances. Add in the fact that Horford will have his hands full keeping either Mobley or Allen off the boards, and that Cleveland allows the sixth-fewest offensive rebounds and I love getting plus money on this prop. PointsBet has the line even higher at 8.5, but it is heavily juiced (-160). Personally, I prefer the DraftKings line.
The two leans are: Mobley under 7.5 rebounds and the game total under 219.
Pick: Al Horford Under 7.5 Rebounds (+105)