**Cleveland at Detroit**
— As of late Thursday afternoon, most books had Cleveland (59-25 straight up, 38-43-1 against the spread) listed as a 4.5-point road favorite for Game 3. The total was 200.5 points, while the Pistons were +165 on the money line (risk $100 to win $165). For first-half bets, the Cavaliers are favored by two with a total of 102.5 points.
— Tyronn Lue’s squad took a 2-0 series advantage by winning a 107-90 decision over Detroit on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Center. The Cavaliers took the cash as 10.5-point home favorites, while the 197 combined slithered ‘under’ the 202-point total. The Pistons led nearly the entire first half but trailed 55-53 at intermission, only to start the third quarter with a 7-0 run to take a five-point advantage. However, the Cavs outscored them 27-8 the rest of the stanza and coasted through the fourth quarter. LeBron James scored a game-high 27 points, but J.R. Smith’s long-range shooting was the difference in Game 2. Smith buried 7-of-11 from 3-point range in a 21-point effort. Kyrie Irvin finished with 22 points and four assists compared to one turnover. Kevin Love added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
— Detroit (44-40 SU, 43-39-2 ATS) had all five of its starters in double figures in the Game 2 setback. Andre Drummond scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but he was limited to five points in the second half and was an atrocious 4-of-16 from the free-throw line. Reggie Jackson finished with 14 points, four rebounds and six assists compared to only one turnover. Tobias Harris contributed 13 points, eight boards and four assists, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 13 points, eight boards, two assists and one rejection.
— Detroit is 26-15 SU and 24-15 ATS at home this year, while Cleveland is 24-17 SU and 17-21 ATS on the road this year.
— Cleveland reserve guard Mo Williams is listed as ‘questionable’ for Game 3 with a sore knee. The University of Alabama product hasn’t played since April 6. Williams averaged 8.2 points, 2.4 assists and 1.8 rebounds during 41 regular-season games.
— Detroit has no fear of Cleveland with three outright wins in four regular-season meetings. The Pistons are 3-3 SU and 4-2 ATS against the Cavs this year after dropping Games 1 and 2 (but covering in the series opener). They won 104-99 in the first encounter at The Palace in Auburn Hills back on Nov. 17, earning the upset scalp as 4.5-point home underdogs. Cleveland won the second meeting on the road by a 114-106 score.
— I’m not a believer in the whole ‘bulletin-board material’ thing, especially in the NCAA Tournament and the NBA Playoffs. In other words, if an individual isn’t playing at the highest intensity level one can produce, then that individual doesn’t have any business competing this time of year. Therefore, I don’t think Detroit rookie Stanley Johnson committed some sort of cardinal sin with his postgame comments Thursday night. In fact, if the stats didn’t tell a different story, I would like it – a lot! However, according to ESPNStatsInfo’s twitter account, James went 13-of-15 from the field with 28 points in the possessions in which Johnson was his primary defender in Games 1 and 2. So Johnson’s comments are far from accurate, but they are bold and audacious nonetheless. Here’s what Johnson said after Game 2 when asked about a bump delivered by James as both teams were walking to their respective benches for a timeout. “That was fugazi (a slang term for fake). He didn’t bump me. I just didn’t move out of his direction. I don’t know what ya’ll take from that. I don’t take anything from it. But a cheap-ass shot, a cheap-ass bump. I’m definitely in his head, that’s for sure. He jabbers. I wish he would just talk when the game is 0-0, not when he’s up 16. He moves his mouth sometimes. Their whole team does, kind of like their little cheerleaders on the bench.”
— VegasInsider.com’s Chris David has these thoughts on Game 3: “Outside of the second half of Game 2, Detroit has gone toe to toe with Cleveland all year, and you have a club that can be very competitive at the Palace on Friday, especially since the locals haven’t had a playoff game in over six years. However, I can’t ignore the track record for the Pistons as home ‘dogs this season and this was one of the few teams to beat Golden State, too. Overall, the club has gone 4-7 SU and 4-6-1 ATS when catching points at home and that includes a split against Cleveland.”
— The ‘over’ is 4-2 in the six head-to-head meetings between these Eastern Conference rivals this season, going 2-0 in the pair of contests at Detroit.
— Totals have been an overall wash for the Cavs (42-42), but they have seen the ‘under’ go 22-19 in their road contests.
— The ‘over’ is 43-41 overall for Detroit, 24-17 in its home games.
— Tip-off is slated for 7:05 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**Atlanta at Boston**
— Atlanta (50-34 SU, 43-40-1 ATS) took a 2-0 series advantage by winning Game 1 by an 89-72 count as a 6.5-point home favorite. The 161 combined fell points ‘under’ the 205.5-point total. Mike Budenholzer’s squad raced out to a 24-3 lead to start the game and had a 24-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter. It was the lowest-scoring quarter for the Celtics in their franchise’s storied postseason history. The Hawks easily covered the number for first-quarter and first-half wagers.
— Kyle Korver missed all seven of his 3-point attempts in Game 1, but he drained 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the first quarter of Game 2. He and Al Horford shared team-high scoring honors with 17 points apiece Tuesday night at Philips Arena. Horford had five rebounds, five blocked shots, two assists and one steal, while Korver had seven boards and two assists without a turnover. The Creighton product went 6-of-9 from the field and 5-of-7 from downtown. Jeff Teague added 13 points, six assists and a pair of steals, while Thabo Sefolosha had 12 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.
— Atlanta won easily in Game 2 despite getting meager production out of leading scorer Paul Millsap. Millsap went 1-of-12 from the field and missed all five of his launches from 3-point range. He did have seven rebounds and four blocked shots, but he committed five turnovers compared to just one assist. In the series opener, Millsap was much better with 14 points, seven boards and three blocked shots, but that was still below his season averages of 17.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
— In the Game 2 setback, Boston (48-36 SU, 43-40 ATS) made only 28-of-88 shots from the field (31.8%) and was 5-of-28 from long distance (17.9%). Isaiah Thomas scored a team-high 16 points, but he went 4-of-15 from the field and 1-of-6 from 3-point range. Thomas had more turnovers (three) than assists (two). Amir Johnson had a solid game with 14 points and eight rebounds in just 20 minutes of playing time. Evan Turner and Terry Rozier also scored in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
— As of late Thursday afternoon, most betting shops had Boston installed as a three-point home favorite for Game 3. The total was 200.5 points, while the Hawks were +140 on the money line (risk $100 to win $140). For first-half wagers, the Celtics were listed as 1.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 97.
— Sportsbook.ag has Atlanta as a -700 favorite for the updated series price, leaving the Celtics at +500 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $500).
— Atlanta has won five in a row over Boston this year, going 4-1 ATS. The Celtics won the first game these clubs played, but it’s been all Hawks since then. The ‘over’ went 3-1 in the four regular-season meetings, but the ‘under’ has cashed in the last two encounters here in the postseason.
— Boston will be without Avery Bradley again in Game 3. He remains unlikely to return at all in the series due to a significant hamstring strain sustained in the second half of Game 1. Bradley, who was the Celtics’ second-leading scorer (15.5 PPG) during the regular season, had scored 18 points in the series opener before sustaining the injury. Center Kelly Olynyk didn’t play in Game 2 due to a shoulder injury and is ‘questionable’ for Game 3. Olynyk averaged 10.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game during the regular season.
— Atlanta back-up point guard Dennis Schroder is ‘questionable’ for Game 3 after spraining his ankle in Game 2. Schroder averaged 11.0 points, 4.4 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game in 80 regular-season contests.
— Boston owns a 28-13 SU record and a 23-17 ATS mark at home this year. Meanwhile, the Hawks are 21-20 SU and 20-20-1 ATS on the road.
— Atlanta owns a 9-8 spread record with eight outright victories in 17 games as a road underdog this year.
— The ‘under’ is 45-39 overall for the Celtics, 21-20 in their home games.
— The ‘under’ is 46-38 overall for Atlanta, going 22-19 in its road assignments. The ‘under’ has cashed in four consecutive games and six of the last seven for the Hawks (regardless of the venue).
— VI’s David is bullish on the Celtics going ‘over’ their team total. He said, “Since Mike Budenholzer took over the Hawks, the ‘under’ in home playoff games has produced some great results (11-2). Unfortunately for ‘Budz’ and Atlanta, those great defensive efforts at Philips Arena haven’t carried over to the road and that was evident last season when the club allowed an average of 103 PPG in the postseason, which helped produce a 5-3 ‘over’ record. Plus, you have to believe Boston rebounds after being held to a season-low 72 points in Game 2. Including that dreadful offensive performance, the C’s have been held under 90 points three times this season and they’ve rebounded with 98, 111 and 116 points in the following games. Even though Boston is short-handed, I’m going to buy its team total ‘over’ (101 ½) on Friday.”
— Tip-off is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.
**San Antonio at Memphis**
— San Antonio (69-15 SU, 46-38 ATS) took a 2-0 series advantage with a pair of blowout wins (and covers) against a depleted Memphis squad. Gregg Popovich’s team captured a 94-68 win in Game 1 as a 17.5-point home ‘chalk.’ The 162 combined points easily stayed ‘under’ the 186-point tally. The Spurs cruised to a 106-74 triumph as 17-point home favorites in Game 1, with the 180 combined points dipping ‘under’ the 188.5-point total.
— As of late Thursday afternoon, most spots had San Antonio installed as an 11.5-point favorite with a total of 181.5 points. The Grizzlies were +600 on the money line (risk $100 to win $600). For first-half wagers, the Spurs were favored by 6.5 points with a total of 84.5.
— In Tuesday’s Game 2 victory, all 13 San Antonio players scored and four were in double figures. Patty Mills had a team-high 16 points thanks to 4-of-6 shooting from downtown. Kawhi Leonard scored 13 points, while Kevin Martin and LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 10 points apiece. Aldridge had eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
— Tony Allen scored a team-best 12 points for the Grizzlies in Game 2. Zach Randolph had 11 points and 12 rebounds. Allen and Randolph are being forced to play this series without their long-time starting teammates in Mike Conley (Achilles) and Marc Gasol, who both went down with season-ending injuries after the All-Star break. Without another post threat, Randolph is being greeted with double-teams galore. The Spurs held the Michigan St. product to six points in Game 1 on 3-of-13 shooting from the field. Randolph was 5-of-17 in Game 2, leaving him shooting at a 8-for-30 clip (26.6%) for the series.
— Not only are the Grizzlies playing without Gasol (16.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG) and Conley (15.3 PPG, 6.1 APG), but they are also sans Mario Chalmers, who was waived after injuring his Achilles just seven games after being acquired from the Heat. Chalmers was averaging 10.8 points, 3.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. Brandan Wright (6.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG) is also out with a knee injury that’s further depleted Memphis’s frontcourt.
— San Antonio is 27-14 SU and 21-20 ATS on the road. The Spurs have been double-digit road ‘chalk’ eight times, producing an unbeaten SU record and a 5-3 ATS ledger.
— Memphis (42-42 SU, 42-41-1 ATS) owns a 26-15 SU record and a 23-18 ATS mark at home in the Grind House. The Grizzlies have been home underdogs 15 times, compiling a 9-6 spread record with seven outright wins. They covered in the lone double-digit home ‘dog situation, a 100-99 loss to Golden St. while catching 13 points.
— Memphis has lost 12 of its last 13 games dating back to March 22, going 4-9 ATS during this miserable stretch. However, we should note that the Grizzlies have covered the number in three straight and nine of their last 12 games as home ‘dogs.
— San Antonio has won seven in a row over Memphis, including all six encounters this year. The Spurs are 6-1 ATS in those seven victories. Five of this year’s six wins have come by double-digit margins.
— The ‘under’ has cashed in five consecutive San Antonio games to improve to 47-35-2 overall. The Spurs have watched the ‘under’ go 24-16-1 in their road assignments.
— The ‘over’ is 45-37-2 overall for Memphis, cashing at a frenetic 25-14-2 clip in its home games.
— The ‘under’ is 4-2 in the six meetings between these teams this season, 6-2 if we go back to last season.
— ESPN will have the telecast at 9:35 p.m. Eastern.