Cavaliers vs. Celtics Preview: Target Cleveland's Team Total

Action Network contributor Tyler Schmidt previews how to bet on the NBA matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, Dec. 22.

Cavaliers vs. Celtics Odds

Cavaliers Odds +6
Celtics Odds -6
Over/Under 205
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The COVID protocols is the NBA’s new favorite key word, as COVID-19 is running through the league like a wild fire right now.

One of the hardest hit teams is the Cleveland Cavaliers, who go on the road tonight with a limited roster to face the Boston Celtics. They have three starters out from their opening day roster.

The Celtics and Cavaliers are two stellar defenses, but I believe the books are being far too aggressive with this game total. There is a unique way in which we can attack this game that doesn’t have to do with the spread or the total.

However, we can still use those numbers to our advantage. Let’s dive in!

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Cavs Are Red Hot

There has not been a team as hot as the Cleveland Cavaliers lately. They have the current longest winning streak of six games and they have won 10 of their last 12.

From the betting side, the Cavaliers have been an absolute print fest. They are a league-best 25-6 against the spread and have covered 14 straight.

Not only have the Cavaliers been dominating spreads lately, but they also haven’t been underdogs since December 6th when they played at the Milwaukee Bucks.

It seems as though the books are starting to realize this Cavaliers team is actually good. On the season, the Cavaliers have covered the spread as underdogs in 17 of their 23 games and they have won outright in 11 of those 23.

They have been just as good on the road. The Cavaliers have covered in 12 of their 15 road games and have won outright in 10 of those 15.

The Cavaliers’ last game was postponed due to COVID, which is the main story of the NBA right now. They have eight total players in the COVID protocol with the main pieces being three of their five starters in Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro — all of which will be out tonight.

Collin Sexton remains out for the season due to injury. The Cavaliers will have a makeshift starting lineup.

Overall, the Cavaliers have been fantastic, especially on the defensive side of the court. They rank second in Defensive Rating this season and have allowed the second-least points at 101.1 per game.

Among players who are averaging 28 or more minutes per game, the Cavaliers have five of the top 12 players who lead the league in Defensive Rating. That is just absurd! This defense has been incredible this season.

However, tonight will be completely different.

Without Allen and Mobley, the Cavaliers are losing out on 30.6 points, 19.1 rebounds and 66.2 minutes per game. Allen and Mobley are the leading rebounders for the team and rank second and third in points, respectively.

The Cavaliers have a veteran bench, but their losses will be tough to overcome.

Celtics’ Defense Continues to Be Strength

Opposite of the Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics have been struggling as of late. They have lost five of their last seven games.

The Celtics are on their last leg of a five-game home stand before traveling to take on the Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas Day. A win tonight would bring their record to 16-16 this season.

Not only do the Celtics have a very average record, but they have been similar against the spread, as well. On the season, the Celtics have covered 15 of their 16 games. Playing at home, they have covered six of their 14 home games.

Lastly, as favorites the Celtics have covered in 10 of their 19 games. The unders have been more successful in their games as well, but not by much.

Unlike the Cavaliers, the Celtics have not had any of their games postponed yet due to COVID. However, they do have a few important players of their own who are in the protocols. Those players would be Al Horford, Josh Richardson and Grant Williams.

Robert Williams was out last game, but is not on the injury report. Overall, the Celtics are much more healthy than the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers have been phenomenal defensively, but the Celtics aren’t too far behind. The Celtics rank 12th in Defensive Rating. Per Cleaning the Glass, their lineup of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Horford and Williams leads the league in defending the rim. This lineup also ranks second in Effective Field Goal Percentage, allowing only 42.1% from the field.

They have a few other lineups in the mix as well, so don’t sleep on this Celtics defense.

Tonight will be Brown’s fifth-straight game in the Celtics lineup. He had missed their previous five games. Brown is second on the team in scoring with 21.8 points per game.

Pairing him with Tatum, who scores 25.9 points per game, is a very dangerous combination. In the 17 games that Brown has played this season, the Celtics have failed to cover in 10 of those games.

Cavaliers-Celtics Pick

The COVID situation for the Cavaliers is concerning. We have yet to see a game where both Mobley and Allen are not in the lineup. However, it is not like their bench is filled with rookies.

They will likely move two of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Cedi Osman into the starting lineup alongside Darius Garland, Dean Wade and Lauri Markkanen. Those subs surely could be worse.

Due to how much of a cash cow the Cavaliers have been this season, they are impossible to ignore despite having so many players in the protocols. Garland has shined in his second year in the NBA. He is averaging a career-high in nearly every statistic.

I think Garland and the rest of the team can rally around each other and still put a good amount of points on the board.

The Cavaliers have scored over 100 points in 22 of their 31 games this season. They have eclipsed over 100 points in 14-straight games. I have a hard time seeing them getting absolutely blitzed out of the gym.

They may not cover, but I do believe they can score enough points to get over their team total tonight.

Pick: Cavaliers Over 99.5 Points Team Total (-110)