In tonight’s most exciting NBA matchup, the Boston Celtics (50-27 SU, 39-39 ATS) will host the Cleveland Cavaliers (50-27 SU, 34-41 ATS) in a potential preview of the Eastern Conference Finals. The winner of this game will take sole possession of first place, which would have tremendous significance as both teams attempt to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
This will be the fourth and final time these teams face off during the regular season, with the home team emerging victorious on all three occasions. The archived game summaries, which are available to Sportsbook Insider subscribers, displays how public betting has impacted the line in previous matchups.
November 3, 2016
December 29, 2016
March 1, 2017
The last time these teams faced off, Boston opened as 1-point underdogs but closed as 2-point favorites. Cleveland was still without J.R. Smith and Kevin Love due to injuries, while Boston was at full strength. Although Smith and Love have returned to the Cavs lineup, Tristan Thompson (Thumb) didn’t travel with the team and isn’t expected to play tonight.
Despite Love’s return to the starting lineup, Cleveland opened as 3.5-point road underdogs at the market-setting Pinnacle sportsbook. Public bettors jumped on the rare opportunity to back LeBron James as an underdog, with 55% of spread tickets and 71% of spread dollars taking the Cavs. Bettors have also been taking the Cavs to win straight up, with 56% of moneyline tickets and 77% of moneyline dollars backing the ‘dog.
Although you would assume this might cause sportsbooks to adjust their lines to encourage action on the Celtics, the exact opposite has been true. Since opening, Boston has actually moved from -3.5 to -4.5 at Pinnacle. This reverse line movement is an excellent indication that sharp bettors have been backing the chalk.
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In addition to this reverse line movement, there have been two steam moves triggered on the Celtics. At 10:53 AM eastern, there was a steam move triggered at 5Dimes which caused Boston to move from -3.5 to -4. At 1:20 PM eastern, there was a steam move triggered at BetUS which caused Boston to move from -4 to -4.5.
It’s rare that Cleveland closes as an underdog, but it’s worth noting that the Cavs have actually gone 3-9 ATS as an underdog this season. In fact, the team has gone just 20-39 ATS as an underdog since LeBron James re-signed with the team prior to the 2014-15 season. (To be fair, James was resting in many of those games where Cleveland closed as a ‘dog.)
Bettors may be surprised to see the Cavs listed as such large underdogs in this matchup, but it’s important to realize that Cleveland played at home last night while the Celtics haven’t played since Sunday’s win against the Knicks. Fatigue becomes a major issue in these late season games, and that’s clearly affecting the line.
I should also note that parlay percentage is an excellent indicator of square money. You won’t find many sharps betting parlays since they’re usually a losing proposition. At the time of publication, 73% of bettors who parlayed or teased this game had taken Cleveland.
We always encourage bettors to shop for the best line, and you can often glean some valuable information by comparing the lines at different sportsbooks. Pinnacle, Heritage, and Buckeye (which are all considered sharp books) are all hanging Cleveland +4.5 while the rest of the marketplace is offering Cleveland +4. This discrepency further indicates that sharp bettors are taking Boston this evening.
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