This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
Coming off of a Game 1 massacre in Boston, LeBron James and the Cavaliers will look to bounce back in a pivotal Game 2 on Tuesday night.
While Cleveland remains the overall favorite to win the series, the Cavs are installed as a one-point underdog in Game 2, which features an O/U total of 204. The spread and the total are two of the more popular wagering options, but many sports books and betting outlets offer a variety of team and individual player props, as well.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the night's more appealing bets.
The Spread: For what it's worth, Boston is far and away the best team in the league at covering the spread. The Celtics are 60-33-2 (64.5%) ATS on the season. Cleveland, on the other hand, ranks dead last at 35-58-1 (37.6%). Considering the Cavs have proven liable for a complete no-show on any given night, that shouldn't be overly surprising. The question is whether Game 1 was an anomaly, or if Boston's defensive schemes really can stifle James and Cleveland's shooters over the course of a series.
A one-point spread is essentially a pick 'em and, accordingly, the payout (-110 both ways) isn't staggering. But if you feel confident that the Cavs will bounce back, it's worth looking into alternate spreads, which are available at Cavs -6.5 and Celtics -8.5. I don't think this Boston team will wilt like Indiana ultimately did in Round 1, but beating LeBron again by at least nine points feels like a lot to ask. James is 33-11 all-time in Game 2's, and he's won 17 of his last 19, with the only two losses coming at the hands of the Warriors each of the last two seasons. James also hasn't dropped a Game 2 to an Eastern Conference opponent since 2013 and hasn't gone down 0-2 in an Eastern Conference playoff series in 10 years.
I like the Cavs to avoid falling into that hole Tuesday night behind a much more aggressive James and better shooting from the perimeter.
Total: As is the case with the spread, the total doesn't provide the richest potential payout (-115 over; -105 under) but, again, alternate totals – O/U 195.5 and 211.5 – are available. I'd lean toward this being a higher-scoring game for the Cavaliers (obviously), while Boston could be due for a slight regression after shooting 51.2% from the field in Game 1, more than six percentage points higher than its postseason average.
This series feels like it could play out similarly to Cavs/Pacers in Round 1, when the Cavs' four victories came by a total of just 14 points, with only one of the seven games – a Pacers blowout in Game 6 – topping 206 total points. Boston is playing at a slightly faster pace than the Indiana was, but the Celtics were the best defensive team in the league this season, and it's difficult to imagine they'll have a complete letdown on that end, as Toronto did twice against Cleveland in the Conference Semis.
I think Cleveland will still struggle to score against the Celtics' defense, but the Cavs can't play any worse offensively than they did in the first half of Game 1. Even so, that doesn't mean it'll be an explosive, 120-plus-point night for the Cavs. James will be much sharper by default, but I think this ends up being a game in which one or both teams are hovering around triple-digits late in the fourth. So while it's tempting to take the over on 204 points, I like under at (slightly) better odds.
Will LeBron James record a triple-double?
That James has better odds (+225) to net his third triple-double of the playoffs than any Celtic not named Al Horford has to record a double-double speaks to just how consistently dominant he's been in the postseason, particularly after losing Game 1. Obviously, getting to 10 points won't be an issue, and James tends to up his effort on the glass in the playoffs. He had double-digit boards in five of seven games against the Pacers and has grabbed at least eight rebounds in nine of 12 playoff contests.
Getting to 10 assists against a stingy Boston defense will be the toughest task, but it's nonetheless encouraging that James had nine assists in Game 1, despite having seven turnovers and the non-James Cavs going 4-of-19 from three. James still managed 15 potential assists in Game 1, a shade lower than his postseason average of 18.2 per game.
Al Horford total points and assists: O/U 19.5
Horford has traditionally struggled against LeBron-led teams, but he was the best player on the floor for much of Game 1, finishing with 20 points, six assists, four rebounds and two blocks. His assists numbers are down overall in the postseason, however, and the introduction of Thompson into the starting five is a wrinkle the Celtics will have to feel out. I don't see Thompson completely shutting down Horford, but a bigger body should keep him under 20 points in Game 2, which makes this a dicey prop.
Kevin Love first quarter points: O/U 4.5
Again, with props like these the odds aren't great – over -150; under +120 – but I think Love is a strong bet to get to five points. While it wasn't the case in Game 1, the Cavs have traditionally made concerted efforts to get Love involved early on. That hasn't always translated to efficient scoring, but Cleveland needs Love to remain engaged and be a threat on offense. With Tristan Thompson set to start at center, Love will shift down to his more natural power forward spot, where he's openly stated he's more comfortable.
Kyle Korver total points: O/U 10.5
Just a quick note on Korver, who has vacillated between great shooting performances and complete duds in the playoffs. After a poor Game 1 – 1-5 3PT, five points – in which Boston did an excellent job of sticking to him around screens, I like Korver to bounce back. He's scored at least 12 points six times this postseason, and four made threes doesn't feel like too much to ask for the Cavs' best perimeter weapon.
Jaylen Brown total points: O/U 17.5
Brown was hampered by a hamstring injury toward the end of the Sixers series, but he didn't look limited at all in Game 1 en route to a team-high 23 points. Brown did hit 3-of-5 three-point attempts, but he got to the line only once (2-2 FT) and finished 9-of-16 from the field. Bottom line: It was the type of game he could replicate and it wouldn't feel out of place.
Will Terry Rozier record a triple-double?
Smart money, of course, says no. But if you're feeling intrepid, the odds (yes: +1500) are fairly appealing. Rozier hasn't notched a triple-double in the playoffs, but he had one during the regular season and has come within striking distance a few times over the past two-plus weeks. The Cavs have plenty of holes, but the struggle to find consistency at point guard has been among their biggest deficiencies all season.