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NBA News and Notes May 18

NBA News and Notes May 18

Celtics vs. Cavs, Game 7
By Chris David

The Boston Celtics weren’t expected to get challenged this early in the playoffs, considering the franchise cruised to a league-best 66-16 record during the regular season. Despite the accolades achieved during the 82-game schedule, head coach Doc Rivers and company faces their second consecutive Game 7 in the postseason.

Boston answered the bell in the first round against Atlanta with a wire-to-wire 99-65 blowout victory. Stopping a young Hawks team is one thing but holding off the defending Eastern Conference champions will be a much tougher task.

Cleveland forced Sunday’s installment by holding off Boston 74-69 on Friday as a 2½-point home favorite. The combined 143 points never threatened the closing total of 178½ points.

What’s amazing about the five-point victory for the Cavs is that they played horrible, at least from an offensive perspective. Mike Brown’s team shot 33 percent from the field, including a 5-of-16 (31%) mark from 3-point land. LeBron James scored 32 of the team’s points, getting almost a third (13-of-15) of his points from the free throw line.

Ray Allen hasn't been able to find his shot against the Cavaliers.     
Ray Allen hasn't been able to find his shot against the Cavaliers. (AP Images)     

Boston shot the ball better (39.7%) than Cleveland, but earned 12 less trips (25-13) to the free throw line. The Celtics 3-point shooting was once again awful (4-of-16) and a lot of the blame is falling on Ray Allen. The sharpshooter has been anything but in this series and for that matter the entire playoffs. He’s only eclipsed his scoring average (17.5 PPG) once in the postseason and is shooting 32 percent from downtown in the playoffs.

Allen is career 39.7 percent shooter from beyond the arc and he’s aware of the slump. “It’s frustrating because I know I can help,” said Allen.

Boston backers can only help he’ll bust out of his slump and his recent comments appear he’s not going down without a fight. “No, I got to shoot the ball,” he said. “I got to shoot the ball. It's not shooting the ball very sporadically. It's developing a rhythm. It's not something where if I shoot the ball once every four or five minutes it's hard to develop a rhythm that way."

Kevin Garnett lived up to his billing in Game 6 with 25 points and eight rebounds. Paul Pierce rounded out the "Big Three" with 16 points.

Most books have Boston listed as an eight-point favorite in Sunday’s battle despite only covering one of the first six games.

Even though the Celtics are 1-5 ATS in this series, the club is a perfect 7-0 straight up at home in the postseason. Those expecting Boston to advance to the conference finals can back them on the money-line at a steep price of minus-400 (Bet $400 to win $100). The Cavaliers can be purchased anywhere from plus-300 to plus-350 (Bet $100 to win $350) for the outright victory.

The home team owns an incredible 21-2 SU record in the second round of the postseason according to our Playoff Results.

This matchup and the Spurs-Hornets Game 7 battle will be the 99th and 100th Game 7 in NBA playoff history. In the first 98 battles, the home team owns a 79-19 (80.6%) record. On another note, the Celtics own a 15-3 record in Game 7’s at home.

LeBron James has only played in one Game 7, which occurred in the 2006 playoffs. The All-Star filled up the stats sheet for 27 points but the Cavaliers were still embarrassed 79-61 by Detroit.

The ‘under’ has gone 4-2 in this series and the books are expecting another low-scoring affair on Sunday, dropping the total to a series-low 174 points.

Tip-off for Game 7 is slated for 3:30 p.m. EDT, with ABC providing national coverage.

vegasinsider.com

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Celtics, Cavs back in Boston for Game 7
May 17, 2008

WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) -The Boston Celtics can drive by the statue of Red Auerbach on their way to work Sunday, pick up some lunch at Faneuil Hall and then warm up under the 16 NBA championship banners their predecessors helped hang from the rafters.

They're back home again, and that's been the surest sign of success for them so far in this year's playoffs.

``We're right where we want to be: We've got an opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference finals,'' forward Paul Pierce said Saturday after the Celtics held a short walkthrough followed by a long series of semi-friendly games of one-on-one.

``This is the reason we got the best record in the NBA for,'' Pierce said. ``We've got to play one more great game in order to advance.''

The Celtics will host Cleveland in the decisive game of their best-of-seven series on Sunday at the new Boston Garden, where the green team has yet to lose in the postseason.

The Celtics had a chance to close out the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Friday but lost 74-69. That forced the series to a seventh game, which the Celtics earned the right to play in Boston by blistering through the regular season with an NBA-best 66-16 record.

And suddenly, that 0-6 playoff road mark doesn't seem so important after all.

``They are at home and are expected to win,'' Cavaliers forward Ben Wallace said.

It's not just the Celtics who have been dominant in their own building: The home team is 21-2 in the conference semifinals, and it's not all that hard to see why.

The home crowd can help the energy of the home team, and influence the referees as well; it's hard to imagine the offensive foul called on Pierce in the final minute of Game 6 being called against him in Boston.

``Home court is huge,'' Celtics guard Eddie House said. ``It does help. It's helped almost every playoff team in this round.''

The Celtics were also unbeaten at home in the first round, when they also went winless on the road to allow the lowly Atlanta Hawks to force the series to the limit. After dropping Game 6 in Atlanta 103-100, the Celtics came back to Boston and eliminated the Hawks 99-65.

``Second time around, huh?'' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. ``Let's hope it's like the last time.''

Rivers put his players through a brief walkthrough and film session, but Pierce, Sam Cassell, Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine stayed more than 45 minutes after practice broke up playing ``knockout,'' a round-robin one-on-one game. After a whole lot of playful trash-talking, mostly from Pierce and Cassell, Pierce won with a high-arcing jumper over Allen.

Several of the Celtics had said they couldn't sleep before Game 7 of the Atlanta series, but on Saturday they looked as if they couldn't have been looser.

``All of us are competitive; all of us want to advance; all of us want to win a championship,'' Pierce said. ``That's what drives us. So that's why you'll see a lot of sleepless nights.''

Rivers said his team can call on the experience it gained from playing an elimination game in the first round. But he also knows one lesson they can't take away is that it will be just as easy this time.

``I don't want them coming in and saying, 'Oh, we're back in Boston and everything will take care of itself,''' Rivers said. ``We have to make things happen.''

In the first round, when teams are less evenly matched, home teams went 34-14. But 11 of those road wins were by the higher-seeded team.

This round, New Orleans and San Antonio have also held serve in their series, while the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers each won a game on the road to advance to the conference finals. Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said he didn't take any solace in the fact that the Lakers won on the road Friday night.

``Whether the Lakers won or lost, it's still going to be tough going into Boston,'' he said.

If all goes well for the Celtics, they'll look up on the scoreboard and see the Gino, the disco-era dance highlight that The Boston Globe dubbed the ``human victory cigar.'' The crowd goes wild, and even the players look forward to dancing along.

Just another comfort of home.

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Re: NBA News and Notes May 18

NBA PLAYOFFS

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(4) Cleveland (7-5 SU, 9-3 ATS) at (1) Boston (7-6, 5-8 ATS)


For the second time in two weeks, the top-seeded Celtics will try to fend off elimination in a Game 7 on their home floor when they battle the defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers in a win-or-go-home showdown at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Cleveland prolonged its season for at least one more game with Friday’s ugly 74-69 victory at home, cashing as a three-point chalk as the home team remained perfect in this series. LeBron James had 32 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for the Cavs, who shot just 33 percent from the field but had a 45-37 edge on the boards, including 16-7 on the offensive glass.

While the home team has won all six games in this series, the host is 4-2 ATS, with the Celtics going 1-2 ATS in Boston. In fact, Cleveland has covered the number in five of the six battles, including the last four in a row. Meanwhile, going back to their opening-round, seven-game series against the Hawks, the Celtics are mired in a 4-8 ATS slump.

The teams have now split their 10 meetings this year, with the host winning all 10 and Cleveland going 8-2 ATS, including 4-1 ATS in Boston. Finally, the favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five after the underdog had been on an 8-0-1 ATS tear in this rivalry.

Both squads have contributed to a staggering overall statistic in the second round of this year’s playoffs: The home team is an eye-popping 21-2 SU and 16-6-1 ATS, with Detroit and Los Angeles – the only teams so far to have advanced to the conference finals – the only teams to post a road win.

The Celtics have history on their side in this one, as they’re 28-0 SU all-time in the postseason when they have had a 3-2 series lead. They’re also 15-3 SU all-time in Game 7s.

Doc Rivers’ Celtics are 7-0 on their home floor in the postseason (5-2 ATS), and going back to the regular season they’ve cashed in 11 of their last 13 at the Garden (the only two non-covers coming against the Cavs in Games 1 and 5 of this series. Boston is also 5-1 ATS in its last six on Sundays and 13-3 ATS in its last 16 after being held to less than 75 points in its previous game. On the downside, the C’s are in the midst of ATS downturns of 1-5 on one day of rest and 1-8 in conference semifinal games.

Although the Cavs have gotten the money in their last two games, they’re still just 8-17 in their last 25 after a spread-cover. They’re also just 7-15 ATS in their last 22 contests after posting less than 75 points in their previous game. On the bright side, Mike Brown’s squad is on pointspread streaks of 4-0 when going on one day of rest and 4-1 on the highway.

Friday’s game never came close to touching the 179-point posted total, making the under 4-2 in this series (2-1 in Boston). Also, for the Celtics, the under is on runs of 5-2 overall, 8-3 at home, 16-6 against the Central Division, 4-0 on Sundays, 4-1 after a non-cover and 11-3 against teams with a losing road record. For Cleveland, the under is on a bevy of streaks, including 13-5 overall, 14-3 in conference semis, 13-5 on one day of rest, 8-2 against the Atlantic Division and 47-23 on Sundays.

ATS ADVANTAGE: BOSTON and UNDER

Gametimepicks.com

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Sunday's best NBA bets
Covers.com

Cleveland at Boston

There’s been a lot of talk about home-court advantage in these playoffs and considering the results, all the talk is justified. But in Game 7 it’s time to put up or shut up. It’s time to face the pressure and answer the call – something neither team in this series has been able to do particularly well.

LeBron James is in the midst of his worst shooting performance ever, but the Cavaliers still managed to take the conference powerhouse to seven games. Why? Because the Big Three haven’t been big at all. Ray Allen might as well not be on the floor at all, Kevin Garnett has struggled against the defensive pressure applied by Anderson Varejao and Ben Wallace, and Paul Pierce can’t seem to hit a jumper.

After a brilliant season, suddenly it is becoming painfully evident that these guys are all woefully short on playoff experience. It was thought that their career-long playoff droughts might inspire them in this postseason, but there hasn’t been much fire or ferocity from them on the floor. They almost allowed themselves get ejected from the playoffs by the No. 8 seed in the first round and now, all it would take is a monster game from LeBron James to give Bostonians their worst day since Bill Buckner booted that grounder.

Would anyone be surprised to see LeBron go off tonight?

Pick: Tie

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Cavaliers, LeBron James draw betting action for Game 7

Gamblers seem to be siding with Cleveland over favored Boston in series' deciding game.

History may be on the side of the Boston Celtics, but that's not stopping bettors from supporting the Cleveland Cavaliers for today's Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Celtics, who have won an NBA-record 16 championships, are listed as eight-point favorites and are playing at home, where they have a 15-3 all-time record in Game 7s.

Yet, it's Cleveland -- which won Game 6 on its home floor on Friday -- that had received 60% of the bets against the spread as of Saturday afternoon, according to theSpread.com.

At wagerline.com, the Cavaliers -- who have covered the point line four games in a row in the series -- had 57.3% of the picks against the spread.

Game 7 is also getting steady action with over/under combined points total bets.

That's because after only 143 total points were scored in Game 6, today's total of 174.5 looks pretty high.

Another trend is Boston's defense at home. In seven home playoff games, the Celtics are giving up 77 points per game with a single-game high of 89, scored by the Cavaliers in Game 5.

Also, in the Celtics' last 11 games at home, the under is 8-3 and in Boston's last 15 games against teams from the Central Division, the under is 11-4.

------

Odds for the NBA Finals most valuable player have been updated and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant is listed as an 8-5 favorite at Sportsbetting.com.

Bryant, who won the league's regular-season MVP award, is followed by Boston's Kevin Garnett at 5-2, with the Lakers' Pau Gasol, Boston's Paul Pierce and Detroit's Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups each listed at 7-1.

The player with the worst odds listed? Cleveland's LeBron James at 20-1.

latimes.com

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