The eastern conference finals between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers are starting this Sunday, a matchup that many predicted at the beginning of the season, but under many different circumstances.
The Celtics started out the season, planning to be led by their new all-star duo of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, but it ended outgoing in a different direction, with both of them having season-ending injuries. Still, Boston Celtics exceed their expectations clinching the #2 seed and making it to the conference finals, with their young supporting cast and veteran Al Horford stepping up and Brad Stevens doing a masterful coaching job. But do they have enough to beat the Cavaliers?
The Cavs won the regular-season series 2-1, with their most notable win being in February, playing their first game after their huge trades and blowing out the Kyrie led Celtics on their home floor. But as history teaches us, the regular season doesn’t matter much in the postseason.
Although the Celtics have the home-court advantage, not many will argue that the Cavaliers are still the favorites. Both teams had tough first-round series which went into 7 games and fairly easily handled second rounds, so they are both fresh and rested for their series.
This matchup is a meeting between two total opposites. On one side we have a Cavaliers team that is heavily relying on LeBron James to carry them, by dominating the stat sheet and trying to get his teammates going. He practically carried them trough the Pacers, but finally got some help against the Raptors, especially from Kevin Love which led to an embarrassing sweep of the #1 seed Raptors, which showed that the Cavaliers when well balanced around LeBron are again the team to beat in the East. On the other side, the Celtics showed the perfect example of the “Next man up” mentality, by having to put their player into bigger roles.
The rookie Jayson Tatum has been phenomenal improving by the game and leading his team in scoring with 18.8 points per game. Also one of the biggest surprises has been “Scary Terry” Terry Rozier stepping into Irving’s shoes and leading this team from the point guard position. But it is very hard to point out an individual in this system with also Horford, Brown, Smart, etc. stepping up their game and each playing their own and crucial role in the team. This pass-first team system is a result of Brad Steven’s coaching, being the key to beating the 76ers in a situation most thought they were the underdogs. Stevens out-coached Brett Brown and is representing one of the biggest advantages the Celtics have over the Cavaliers.
On the other side, you have the best player on the planet, and sometimes that is enough. But in this situation, they will need more. Kevin Love needs to continue his hot streak, Tristan Thompson has emerged back in the rotation and provided a big addition on the boards. Also, their shooters like JR Smith, Kyle Korver, and Jordan Clarkson could have a big series, playing off of LeBron. A big advantage the Cavs have is an experience which is always a crucial factor in the playoffs. For example, Cleveland’s starting lineup has 64 combined seasons of NBA experience compared to Boston’s 23, most of them being Horford’s.
But in the end, this will probably be an interesting series, in which the Cavaliers have a slight edge, with Lebron James playing some of the best basketball of his career, but Boston has their chance and will definitely give it their all, especially with the support of their fans in the TD garden.