We cashed both home teams in Game 5 of each Conference Finals. Boston was first on Wednesday when it looked, once again, like the team it has looked like all along at the TD Garden. The win was its 10th of the postseason, without a loss.
Jayson Tatum scored efficiently, Jaylen Brown looked like the most athletic player on the floor and Terry Rozier ran the offense flawlessly. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s defense looked exactly the opposite of how it looked at home.
You can bet on me backing Boston again in Game 7, if the series gets there. The Cavs have to take care of business at home tonight before we can plan on that. The Cavs are 7-point favorites after covering two similar numbers in Games 3 and 4.
The public will be on Cleveland in this game and for good reason. The home team has looked totally dominant in this series, not just because its defense is elevated at home but because the other team looks so much worse. Not only does the home team play a lot better, but the road team plays a lot worse.
But I have some confidence in Boston not playing so terribly in this game. It went through the ringer earlier this week in Cleveland; now, it returns up 3–2, knowing that even if it does lose this game, it has one final match in the Garden to get to the Finals. That’s a nice though to carry into this game, while all the pressure is on the Cavs. This feels like a spot where the Celtics can play, lose, free, let it all hang out and just go for the jugular.
Rozier is the key. He has to win his matchup with George Hill, or whoever else he’s matched up against, both offensively and defensively. He’s the better, more athletic player, but he seems to get more passive on the road. If he comes out ultra aggressive in the opening minutes and forces the action, it will be a good omen for Boston, even if he turns the ball over a time or two in the process.
So this is a bit of a gut play with Boston. It got overwhelmed in the first game in Cleveland and played a lot better in the second. I suspect that progression will continue in this game. I still like Cleveland to force a Game 7, but I’m not booking that at all. Boston is dangerous tonight when not many expect it to be.
Free Pick: Boston +7