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The Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks were expected to have one of the most competitive series in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. This expectation has been met after two games, as the series is tied and transitioning to Madison Square Garden. The Knicks have the advantage moving forward, even though they don’t have home court in game seven. New York has been solid at home, and the Cavaliers have struggled on the road. Game three should be competitive, but a tight contest always favors the home team, especially at The Garden.
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In the NBA, a playoff series doesn’t truly begin until the home team loses on their own floor. Since New York made a statement in Cleveland in game one, the series began right away. The narrative all season for the Cavaliers has been their strength at home, but their armor was cracked from the beginning. Even though Cleveland won game two, they left the door open for the Knicks to win this series at home in game six.
If New York can continue to dominate at home and take the next two games, they could lose game five and close it out at Madison Square Garden in game six. The Cavaliers are talented and they have multiple stars that can shine like Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. However, road games aren’t a strong suit for the team.
The Cavaliers are just 20-21 on the road this season and 19-20 ATS as visitors. When it comes to playing as underdogs, Cleveland is even worse. They have won four times in 18 games as an underdog this year. Nearly every impact players’ splits are worse on the road than at home, and this won’t cut it at a hostile venue like Madison Square Garden.
Look for the Knicks to come out on fire early, and set the tone. With the small spread, it could be valuable to play New York’s first half moneyline in addition to full game bets which we’ll discuss at the end. Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle have been sensational on the road, and we like them to create momentum for their team at home.
The Cavaliers won game two in a dominant fashion, besting the Knicks by 17 points. There was never really a point after the second quarter where New York looked alive. The Cavaliers outscored the Knicks 34-17 in the second quarter, which deflated New York heading into the half. For Cleveland to win on the road in game three, they must create multiple scoring runs.
The way to win in the NBA is by stacking multiple runs to create big leads. In the playoffs, it’s very hard for road teams to be successful, so Mitchell and Garland must be big from the perimeter. The other key factor for the Cavaliers is Evan Mobley’s success inside against Randle.
Mobley grabbed 13 rebounds on the day, which helped the Cavaliers win the overall battle on the glass. He also was sensational on defense, and didn’t give New York anything easy on the interior.
The New York Knicks haven’t been as strong at home as they’ve been on the road. However, they’re much better at Madison Square Garden than the Cavaliers are as visitors. The Knicks are 23-18 at home and 5-2 in their past seven against an Eastern Conference opponent.
Multiple players have made big shots for the Knicks throughout the postseason, but no player has been more critical than Randle. Randle’s size and shooting ability makes him a threat in the paint and on the perimeter.
We expect him to give the Cavaliers a lot of issues in game three. He is New York’s leading scorer with 25.1 points per game, and he also is ninth in the NBA in rebounds with ten per game. Brunson is critical for the success of the Knicks, but New York can’t win without a big performance from their star.
The Cavaliers are short underdogs on the road, and they can’t be trusted in this position. If they had five to six points of protection, it may be a different conversation. However, they’re only being given two points and they haven’t delivered as underdogs or visitors. We expect this game to be close throughout four quarters, but New York’s home momentum will push them over the edge in this position.
The Knicks should get out to a hot start and cover the first half, as well as the full game. If you want to get risky, take a halftime/fulltime exact outcome bet and hope New York shuts the door on Cleveland at Madison Square Garden.
PICK: Knicks -2 (-110)
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Tanner Kern has been working in the betting industry since 2020. He currently is a social media content creator at DraftKings and contributes to multiple sites in addition to WSN, including Forbes and VSiN. He is also the cohost of the podcast Ride the Line at WSN.More info on Tanner Kern
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