Cavs huge series favorites, but Celtics might surprise early

Rodney Dangerfield died in 2004, but the comedian’s spirit has lived on through countless teams that have played his “no respect” card.

The Celtics are the latest team to claim that they’re being overlooked despite earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

In this case, Boston is correct. Despite the Celtics having home-court advantage in the conference finals against the Cavaliers, defending NBA champion Cleveland is heavily favored to win the series and is a 4-point favorite in Game 1 on Wednesday in Boston.

“We’ve been counted out since I’ve been here, so it’s nothing new,” Celtics star Isaiah Thomas told reporters Tuesday.

The Cavs opened as minus-550 series favorites at the Westgate sports book following Boston’s Game 7 win over the Wizards on Monday. That number was moved to minus-700 on Tuesday morning and climbed to minus-900 by Tuesday night, with the Celtics as plus-600 ‘dogs.

The William Hill sports book lists Cleveland as a minus-800 favorite and Boston as a plus-550 ‘dog.

“The market’s a little bit lower but we’ve had people laying (minus) 900 on our price. That’s just the public sentiment out there,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said. “Everybody thought it would be Cleveland and Golden State and now people are showing up and betting on it.”

While Sherman expects the Cavaliers to win the series, he said the Celtics will put up a fight.

“I expect Boston to get a game or two, with home-court advantage,” he said. “It’s going to be a tougher series than people anticipate. I don’t think it will be a 4-1 walk.

“With (Kawhi) Leonard being out, I’d be surprised if the Spurs don’t get swept by the Warriors. But this is going to be more challenging for Cleveland.”

The Cavaliers won three of four meetings with the Celtics this season but went only 1-2-1 against the spread. We’re going all-in on Boston in Game 1, grabbing four points in the game, two points in the first half and one point in the first quarter.

Cleveland, 8-0 in the playoffs and 4-2-2 ATS, escaped with a 109-108 win over the Pacers to open the playoffs and trailed Indiana by 25 points on the road in Game 3 before storming back for the victory. LeBron James and Co. have been off since May 7 and might take a while to get their groove back. Boston, 9-2 ATS in the playoffs since losing its first two postseason games to the Bulls, has won and covered its last five home games and followed up Monday’s Game 7 win by winning Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery.

Sherman noted that the Cavaliers also were favored by four in Game 3 in Toronto, which was without star guard Kyle Lowry.

“The Celtics are definitely a better team than the Raptors minus Lowry. It just shows you how much everyone is enamored with the Warriors and Cavaliers at this point. The price is so inflated,” he said. “You saw what happened to Golden State after a long layoff. San Antonio had a 20-point halftime lead. I can envision the same scenario here.

“Cleveland’s had a long layoff and Boston has been playing solid basketball. You could see a good effort from Boston here in the first quarter and first half.”

However, unless Kelly Olynyk or some other Celtics player not named Isaiah Thomas has a career game or four, James should advance to the NBA Finals for the seventh straight season and help the Cavs defend their crown against Golden State.

“I would be very surprised if the Celtics actually won four games in the series,” Sherman said. “The problem with this matchup is Cleveland has LeBron and other help. Isaiah Thomas doesn’t have much scoring punch on his side.

“The only thing that might help Boston is Cleveland’s deficiency on defense. That’s been their glaring weakness all season.”

More Betting: Follow all of our sports betting coverage online at reviewjournal.com/betting and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-266-6080. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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