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Celtics Continue to Defy the Odds in Quest for NBA Championship

Jaylen Brown shoots over the Washington Wizards.
Jaylen Brown and the Celtics have the Cavs on the ropes after winning the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License
  • Boston’s odds to win the NBA Finals have shortened after winning the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals
  • Can the Celtics continue their dominance in Game 3 in Cleveland?
  • Will Houston rebound from a subpar Game 1 performance against Golden State?

This wasn’t supposed to happen. The Boston Celtics were never supposed to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, yet alone find themselves up 2-0 over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Brad Stevens’ squad was supposed to roll over and die after losing Gordon Hayward to a gruesome leg injury on opening night. And yet, three days later, they began an improbable 16-game winning streak.

Their postseason dreams were supposed to be dashed several months later on March 11th when Kyrie Irving succumbed to a knee injury, and yet they won six consecutive regular season games and crushed the Bucks and 76ers in the opening rounds of the playoffs.

In spite of all the obstacles, all the injuries, and all the skepticism, the Celtics simply can’t stop winning.  The team’s average odds to win the 2018 NBA Finals have now improved from +1800 on May 10th to +870 on May 16th across a number of top online betting sites. The Celtics are currently available as short as +750 at MyBookie and as long as +1000 at Bookmaker.

The key to the Celtics’ success has been their relentless defense. Boston has held Cleveland to 88.5 points per game on 41% shooting from the floor and 24% from beyond the arc. The Celtics are making full use of their athleticism and length and are switching multiple times on every possession.

Boston has held Cleveland to 88.5 points per game on 41% shooting from the floor and 24% from beyond the arc.

That was especially evident in Game 1 as Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford all took turns harassing LeBron James. They collectively held the Cavs star to 15 points on 5-16 shooting and forced him into a playoff-high seven turnovers. They never allowed James to get comfortable and consistently made him settle for contested jump shots.

Vegas has taken note of Cleveland’s struggles and has adjusted their odds accordingly. The team’s average odds of winning the 2018 NBA Finals have risen from +540 on May 10th to +1200 on May 16th.

The Celtics have outrebounded the Cavs 94-85 and have come up with significantly more deflections and loose balls.

Cleveland has orchestrated miraculous comebacks in the past, but there’s something about this version of the Cavs that inspires pessimism. It’s one thing to get outscored, as Cleveland did during Games 1 and 2, but it’s another to get outworked. The Celtics have outrebounded the Cavs 94-85 and have come up with significantly more deflections and loose balls.

The Cavaliers may be the ones sporting shirts with the slogan “Whatever it Takes,” but so far the Celtics have been the ones doing absolutely everything in their power to assure victory. They’re livelier, scrappier, and a whole lot hungrier.

Team Odds on May 10th Odds on May 16th
Golden State Warriors -150 -320
Houston Rockets +210 +490
Boston Celtics +1800 +870
Cleveland Cavaliers +540 +1200

Meanwhile, over on the Western front, the Warriors continue to be the team to beat. Golden State’s average odds to win the NBA Finals have dropped significantly from -150 on May 10th to -320 on May 16th across numerous online betting sites.

The Warriors’ status as the NBA’s top dog was reaffirmed on Monday as they defeated the Rockets 119-106 in a fast and furious game brimming with highlights. Kevin Durant had 37 points on 14-27 shooting and three other Warriors finished in double figures.

Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni was fine with Durant’s offensive explosion, but took issue with his team’s countless mental lapses. “I thought he was extremely good,” D’Antoni said, “but we can withstand that. We can’t withstand turning the ball over and giving up so many wide open threes.”

Golden State will have a chance to put another nail in Houston’s coffin on Wednesday night when the two teams clash again at the Toyota Center.

Check out our 2017-18 NBA Championship Odds Tracker to see how the odds of all 30 teams have fluctuated since the beginning of the season.

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Ryan Murphy began his love affair with sports journalism at the age of nine when he wrote his first article about his little league baseball team. He has since authored his own column for Fox Sports, and now serves as SBD’s resident NBA and MLB expert.