The top-seeded Boston Celtics are on the brink of elimination as they host the second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers as big home underdogs for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday.
Regardless of how this series turns out, the Celtics have played inspired the last two games without injured point guard Isaiah Thomas, splitting them and covering the spread both times on the Vegas odds.
Point spread: The Cavaliers opened as 8.5-point favorites; the total is at 214.5, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. (Line updates and matchup report)
Why the Celtics can cover the spread
Boston may be playing its last home game here, but the fans should be fully behind the team in an effort to stretch the series by sending it back to Cleveland.
The Celtics have lost 12 of the past 15 meetings with the Cavaliers straight up, but they are 8-6-1 against the spread in those games.
Many of those matches were played with Thomas on the court, but Marcus Smart has the potential to bounce back from a horrific Game 4 performance in which he scored just eight points on 1-of-9 shooting.
Smart led Boston with 27 points in the team's 111-108 Game 3 upset.
Why the Cavaliers can cover the spread
Cleveland does not want to give the Golden State Warriors too much of an advantage in the NBA Finals, assuming they meet for a third consecutive time.
The Warriors already have the home-court edge and will be more well-rested after sweeping the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.
The Cavaliers simply need to pick up where they left off in the second half of Game 4, when they outscored the Celtics 65-42 after trailing by 10 points at the break.
Cleveland's Kyrie Irving took advantage of Smart defensively with a career playoff high 42 points, while LeBron James added 34 points even though he was in foul trouble.
Smart betting pick
Boston already pulled off one shocker in this series, so expecting another is a lot to ask. That said, the Celtics have played their best this postseason when critics have counted them out.
With their backs against the wall, bettors should expect the best from Boston on its home court. It may not be enough to win again SU, but covering for the third straight time versus the Cavs is doable for the Celts in this spot.
NBA betting trends
The total has gone over in 14 of Cleveland's last 20 games.
Cleveland is 5-0-2 ATS in its last seven games on the road.
Boston is 11-4 ATS in its last 15 games.
All NBA lines and betting trends courtesy of Bleacher Report’s official odds partner, OddsShark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and the OddsShark YouTube page for picks and analysis, or download the free odds tracker app.