The Cleveland Cavaliers (43-48 ATS overall, 22-24 ATS on the road) are just one win away from an NBA Finals rematch against the Golden State Warriors, but first they will need to take care of business against the Boston Celtics (52-46 ATS overall, 22-28 ATS at home). On Sunday, Boston pulled off the biggest NBA playoff upset in our database, but they were unable to replicate that magic in Game 4 on Tuesday night.
The road team has covered the spread in all four games this series, and that’s par for the course this postseason. During the 2017 NBA playoffs, visitors have gone 32-41 straight up (+13.1 units) and 46-26 against the spread (+18.1 units). Sportsbook Insider subscribers have access to our historical archive, and you can view the opening line, closing line and public betting trends for all four Eastern Conference Finals games.
As you can see, the Cavs continue to be one of the league’s most public teams and have received more than two-thirds of spread tickets in every game this series. You can also see that bettors clearly haven’t valued home-court advantage, as the Cavs have received more than 70% of spread tickets in both games played in Boston. That’s particularly interesting since the Celtics received less than 30% of spread tickets just once during the regular season (November 25th against the Spurs).
Isaiah Thomas was active for the two previous games played in Boston, but he’s out for the remainder of the postseason due to a hip injury. Thomas is worth roughly 2-3 points to the spread and the momentum seems to be favoring Cleveland, so it’s hardly surprising to see the Cavs open as a massive favorite for tonight’s potential series clincher.
Cleveland opened as 8.5-point road favorites at the market-setting Bookmaker.eu, and public bettors have been steadily hammering the chalk. At the time of publication, the Cavs were receiving 71% of spread tickets and 83% of spread dollars. This one-sided public betting caused the spread to move from Cavs -8.5 to -10 before there was finally buyback on the Celtics.
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It’s worth noting that Bookmaker is the only offshore sportsbook currently offering Cleveland -9.5. Most sportsbooks are still hanging Cleveland -10, and some square books (including Bovada, Sports Interaction, and Sportsbook.com) have the line at Cleveland -10.5. This highlights the importance of having access to multiple sportsbooks and always shopping for the best line.
It’s incredibly rare to find double-digit favorites at this stage of the playoffs, and that’s especially true of visiting teams. Since 2005, favorites of 10 or more points have gone 49-40-2 ATS at home and 3-1-1 ATS on the road. Just three days ago we witnessed the first double-digit road favorite in the Conference Finals when the Warriors closed as 11-point favorites against the Spurs. Golden State won 129-115.
Although these large favorites have historically performed well during the playoffs, bettors should think twice before taking the Cavs. Since hiring Brad Stevens, the Celtics have gone 17-6 ATS as double-digit underdogs with covers in five consecutive games (four of which came against Cleveland).
Since 2005, the number one seed has closed as an underdog at home on just five occasions, with two of those instances occurring earlier in this series. In fact, the Celtics made history when they closed as 5-point home underdogs in Game 2. It’s unprecedented to see the top seed as such a big underdog, yet bettors continue to hammer the Cavs. There’s no doubt that Cleveland is the more talented team, but this is a unique opportunity to take the Celtics as a double-digit contrarian ‘dog on their home court.
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