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NBA Best Bets and Bold Predictions: Celtics vs. Cavaliers

Without Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland is a heavy home underdog against Boston.

The Boston Celtics are going for the series sweep on Tuesday night against the shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers. No team is hotter than the Celtics, winners of 11 straight, most recently a 52-point win against the Golden State Warriors over the weekend. Conversely, the Cavaliers are just 5–5 over their last 10 games and will be without all-star guard Donovan Mitchell (knee).

Boston (48–12) has been especially dominant over the last few weeks, having won its last six by an average of 27 points. Celtics stars Jaylen Brown (knee) and Kristaps Porzingis (quad) are both questionable for the third and final game against Cleveland after Brown played limited minutes in the blowout against Golden State and Porzingis was out. The Cavaliers (39–21) cooled off at the tail end of February and into March after ripping off a nine-game winning streak. In addition to Mitchell, Max Strus (knee) is out and Caris LeVert (elbow) is questionable.

The previous two meetings in the season series were played in mid-December in Boston. The Celtics won the first 120–113 behind 25 points apiece from Jayson Tatum and Brown and Tatum led the way with 27 in a 116–107 victory two days later.

Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Spread: Celtics -8.5 (-105) | Cavaliers +8.5 (-110)
Moneyline: BOS (-345) | CLE (+260)
Total: 215.5 — Over (-118) | Under (-110)
Game Info: Tuesday, March. 5 | 7:30 p.m. ET | TNT

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics

Led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics took a pair of games against the Cavaliers in December.

Best Bet: Over 215.5 (-118)

Bold Prediction: Jaylen Brown to Score 30+ Points

Boston bombed away from deep in Sunday’s win over the Warriors and finished 25–49 from beyond the arc as nine different players hit at least one three-pointer. That’s been a strength all season long for the NBA’s top-rated offense, which hits a league-leading 16.4 threes per game at a 38.6% clip.

The Celtics pair that No. 1 offense with the second-best defense in the Association, which helps explain their whopping +11.4 point differential, one of the best marks in NBA history. Cleveland ranks just behind Boston in defensive rating and defends the arc well, though its offense is middle of the pack and will be missing its leading scorer in Mitchell.

The Cavaliers are 7–6 straight up this season without Mitchell, who missed Sunday’s 107–98 loss to the New York Knicks and a 110–100 win against the Detroit Pistons on Friday. The 8.5-point spread is one of the largest of the season for Cleveland, which has only been installed as an underdog 18 times. Two of the three times the Cavaliers got eight or more points were against the Celtics — they covered an 11-point spread in the first meeting and failed to cover the 8.5-point line in the next matchup.

With such stout defenses, both Boston (31–29) and Cleveland (33–26–1) have seen the under hit more often than the over this season. However, the way the Celtics have been rolling as of late, the 215.5-point total is just too low to pick the under. Besides, this is the lowest total of the year for Boston and the over is 4–1 in C's games with totals set below 220 points.

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