Celtics vs Cavaliers Picks and Predictions: Fade Boston in Impossible Schedule Spot

The Celtics are in an uninspiring midseason stretch that's seen them fall out of the East's No. 1 spot with tough losses to the Nets and Knicks. Expect those struggles to continue on the second night of a back-to-back — read more in our NBA picks below.

Last Updated: Mar 6, 2023 1:44 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Darius Garland Jarrett Allen Cleveland Cavaliers NBA
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics get little time to catch their breath before clashing with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night.

Boston travels to Cleveland still stinging from a double-overtime loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday night, and the NBA odds markets are reacting to that abrupt turnaround with a significant jump in the point spread for tonight’s game.

Sunday’s shortcoming was a second straight loss for Boston and the third loss in the past four games. That lone win came against this same Cleveland team on March 1, with the Cavs losing 117-113 but covering as 4.5-point road underdogs.

Here’s a breakdown of the spread and Over/Under total for Monday’s matchup as well as my best NBA picks and predictions for Celtics vs. Cavaliers on March 6.

Celtics vs Cavaliers best odds

Celtics vs Cavaliers picks and predictions

As of noon Monday, the NBA markets for Celtics-Cavaliers are about as slim as Chet Holmgren stranded on a desert island.

With Donovan Mitchell as a game-time decision, books aren’t rolling out his projections and with the Boston Celtics on the second of back-to-back games and coming off a double-overtime war against New York, there aren’t any player props out for the guys in green yet.

The adjustment in the spread already has the market moving away from Boston, which was as short as a 1.5-point road underdog on the lookahead lines – before Sunday’s result. And with Mitchell showing up for shootaround, we’ve seen this spread tick up as high as Cavs -7 at some sharper shops in Vegas.

Mentally, Boston is in a shit spot. The team suffered the biggest collapse of the NBA season by blowing a 28-point lead to Brooklyn on Friday and followed that with a gutting 2OT defeat at the hands of the rival Knicks (without Jalen Brunson) – both coming in front of the Beantown faithful.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have played the Celtics hard in their three meetings this season, edging Boston in overtime twice in the fall and backdoored for loyal Cavs backers when these teams played on March 1, outscoring the C’s 15-4 in the final 2:15 to stay within the +4.5 with a 117-113 loss in TD Garden.

Not only is the schedule spot a tall task for Joe Mazzulla’s team, but the Cavs' monstrous frontcourt is a challenge for a Boston roster running short on beef under the basket. The Celtics are down energetic big man Robert Williams III, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the most recent run-in with Cleveland.

Williams, who is out for 7-10 days with a hamstring injury, leaves a significant hole around the rim. Behind him, Boston shrinks to 6-foot-9 Al Horford as a non-traditional center, scrappy 6-foot-6 power forward Grant Williams, and deep reserve center Mike Muscala.

Cleveland has twin towers Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley patrolling the key, limiting opponents to just 46 average points in the paint – third lowest in the league. The Celtics will get nothing easy from the Cavs' interior defense, which will force Boston to the perimeter and put pressure on the Celtics' shooters to find their touch with tired legs.

Without size inside, Cleveland will clean the glass with ease and limit any second chance scores available. The Celtics had 17 offensive rebounds against the Knicks, which led to 29 second-chance points in last night’s game. Those opportunities won’t be there tonight against a Cleveland defense that allows the third-fewest second-chance buckets.

I'm grabbing the Cavs on the low end of the spread before this starts to climb with Mitchell's upgraded status and whatever Mazzulla plans to do with his starters.

My best bet: Cavaliers -6 (-110 at PointsBet)

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Celtics vs Cavaliers spread analysis

There were some sportsbooks with look-ahead lines available for Monday’s clash before Boston's battle with New York last night, with the Celtics set as 2.5-point road underdogs in Cleveland. Those early odds came off the board for Sunday’s clash and books reopened this contest at Cavaliers -3.5 around 11 p.m. ET.

It didn’t take long for action against the Celtics to steam this line as high as Cleveland -7 at some sharper Las Vegas operators as of 11 a.m. ET Monday morning. That’s a 3.5-point move off the reopened spread and a 4.5-point move from the shorter look-ahead lines.

And to add to the madness of this movement, Cleveland star guard Donovan Mitchell is a game-time decision with a finger sprain on his left hand. He suffered the injury in Saturday’s win over Detroit but return to finish the game.

Boston also has some injuries to important role players, with sixth man Malcolm Brogdon a game-time decision after missing the past two outings with a sore knee and center Robert Williams out for at least a week with a strained hamstring.

Looking at recent form, Boston isn’t playing at the level it was before the All-Star break and has suffered two bruising losses in their last two outings: the 2OT defeat to the Knicks and a blown 28-point lead to the Nets on Friday.

Inconsistency over 48 minutes, more specifically a downtick in defensive intensity, has plagued the Celtics during this slump. Boston has watched its advanced defensive rating swell to 117.3 since the break after owning the fourth-lowest metric in the first half of the schedule (110.6).

Cleveland comes into this matchup with a pair of one-sided wins over Detroit and Toronto bookending the March 1 loss to the Celtics. The box score says the Cavs lost by only four in that game, staying within the 4.5-point spread. However, Cleveland was down 13 points with just over two minutes left and closed on a 15-4 run to backdoor the spread.

Overall, the Cavaliers are 35-28-3 ATS with a solid 22-11-1 ATS mark inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The Celtics, who are 1-5 ATS since the break, own a 34-31 ATS record on the season, including a 16-15 ATS count as visitors.

Celtics vs Cavaliers Over/Under analysis

The Over/Under for Monday’s game opened as big as 220.5 on those select look-ahead markets before the result of Sunday’s contest with New York. The total was then reposted at 218.5 and has bounced between that and 219.5 points.

The total for their March 1 meeting opened at 222.5 points and shrunk to a closing number of 219, with the final score topping that total – and would have even without the Cavs’ sudden scoring surge in the final two minutes.

Mitchell’s status will have a huge impact on this number, but he was present at shootaround this afternoon and did continue to play through the injury on the weekend. He torched Boston for 44 points in that March 1 game and should have fresh legs against a drained Celtics defense after playing only 24 minutes in the blowout win over the Pistons.

Cleveland entered the All-Star break as the No. 1 rated defense in the league (109.3) but has seen that standing slip on the other side of the annual hiatus. The Cavs own a defensive rating of 112.7 over their last five games but are stingier on their own floor with foes scoring less than 105 points per homestand.

Boston and New York had gone Over the total before the added frames last night, with Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla asking his team to be more active on offense, specifically when it came to their volume of shots from beyond the arc.

The C’s were averaging only 35.6 3-point attempts in the first five games since the break but tossed up 49 triples in regulation on Sunday, knocking down 19 of those long-range looks.

In terms of pace of play, the Cavaliers are the most methodical offense in the land and rest at the bottom of the pace rating on the season. The Celtics, who run near the middle of the pack in that measurement, have been far slower since the All-Star break with a pace rating of 96.16 – fourth slowest in the post-break world.

Overall, Cleveland’s defense and snail’s pace have been padded by short totals this season, leading to a 31-35 O/U record, including 16-18 O/U at home. Boston is 3-3 O/U in its last six, 10-20-1 O/U on the road, and 32-31-2 O/U so far this year.

This will be the fourth matchup between the Cavs and Celtics. Their March 1 game played Over the total while their first two contests went into overtime and played Over the total. While one would have topped the total regardless, the November 2 encounter would have finished Under.

Celtics vs Cavaliers betting trend to know

The Cavaliers are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games overall. Find more NBA betting trends for Celtics vs. Cavaliers.

Celtics vs Cavaliers game info

Location: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland, OH
Date: Monday, March 6, 2023
Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSB, Bally Sports OHIO

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