Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers (-7, 211 o/u)
Quietly, the Boston Celtics (29-22, 14-12 Away) are surging into the All-Star break, winning seven of their last eight and vaulting to third in the Eastern Conference. Tonight, they’ll have a chance to show how far they’ve really come when they visit the first-place Cleveland Cavaliers (35-13, 19-3 Home) at Quicken Loans Arena (7:30 PM Eastern).
After splitting a home-and-home with the Magic on the weekend, Boston rebounded with road wins over the Knicks (97-89) and Pistons (102-95).
They put the Pistons away in the first half, holding Detroit to just 36 points in the opening two quarters and taking a 20-point lead into halftime. Isaiah Thomas was the high man with 17 points, but it was a balanced attack that led to the win, with six different players scoring 12 points or more.
Boston will need more of the same tonight against a Cleveland team that’s 7-2 in its past nine games. The Cavs fell to Charlotte last time out (106-97) – snapping a five-game win streak.
Cleveland had a nine-point lead at the break but were outscored 33-17 in the third quarter, continuing a concerning trend for the team.
“We’re [terrible] in the third quarter right now,” LeBron James told the Associated Press. “We need to figure it out. I don’t know what it is. I know coach [Tyronn Lue] and the coaching staff are trying to pinpoint what the case may be.”
Poor third quarters aside, the Cavs have won five straight at home, including an impressive 117-103 win over the Spurs last Saturday. The streak, which has largely coincided with the promotion of Tyronn Lue to head coach, has them sitting first in the conference, two games up on the Raptors and 7.5 ahead of the Celtics.
“They’re No. 1 in the East right now, they’re playing very well, so I’m interested to see how we go out and play against them,” Boston center Tyler Zeller told the team’s official website.
The trends favor the Cavs. Cleveland is 5-0 SU in its last five against Boston and 6-3 ATS in the last nine against the Celts at Quicken Loans Arena. But Thomas and company are playing their best ball of the season, especially at the defensive end. I like Boston to cover the seven-point spread.
Pick: Cleveland to win, Boston (+7) to cover.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped from its original.)