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Cavs biggest ‘dog left in postseason

Despite the immense talents of LeBron James, who continues to show he’s not an overrated player, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the biggest underdogs remaining in the NBA playoffs.

No disrespect to James, but he’s a one-man gang. The Boston Celtics are bringing three stars into the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Wynn Las Vegas sports book director John Avello opened Boston as a minus-850 favorite over Cleveland in a best-of-7 series that begins Tuesday.

“The Celtics have got to be a good-sized favorite. They have got three guys who are fantastic players,” Avello said. “James can control a game, but it’s going to take a lot to beat the Celtics.”

Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce led Boston to an NBA-best 66-16 record in the regular season.

But the Celtics’ dominance has not carried over to the postseason, as they showed signs of weakness while needing seven games to eliminate the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.

Bettors looking for a capable underdog might want to take a shot with the Cavaliers.

“There are going to be some people interested in the underdog,” Avello said. “There are not too many people who want to lay about 8-1.”

The Cavaliers and Celtics split four regular-season meetings. James played in three of the games and averaged 32.3 points. He went to the free-throw line 40 times.

James averaged 29.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.7 assists to carry Cleveland past the Washington Wizards in six games in a first-round playoff series.

The key for the Cavaliers will be finding sources of offense other than James and 7-foot-3-inch center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. When James draws attention from the defense, Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West need to consistently hit jumpers for Cleveland to be successful.

Boston is a 10-point home favorite in Tuesday’s series opener, and home teams are 3-0 against the spread in the second round.

The Los Angeles Lakers closed as 8-point favorites Sunday and posted a 109-98 victory over the Utah Jazz. The Lakers, the top seed in the West, opened as minus-380 favorites in the series.

Avello adjusted the Wynn’s series prices on New Orleans-San Antonio and Detroit-Orlando after lopsided Game 1 victories by the Hornets and Pistons.

The Hornets are minus-160 favorites to eliminate the defending champion Spurs. The Pistons are minus-600 to end the Magic’s season.

• BIG (BROWN) FAVORITE — Big Brown’s easy victory Saturday in the 134th Kentucky Derby is creating hype about a potential Triple Crown winner. Avello said Big Brown could go off at 1-5 odds in the Preakness Stakes on May 17.

“He’s got bad feet. But if he stays healthy, he’s going to be a difficult horse to beat,” said Avello, who posted futures odds in September and opened Big Brown at 175-1 to win the Derby.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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