Boston Celtics (1) versus Cleveland Cavaliers (2)
Eastern Conference Finals - Game 1
5:30 pm PST - on TNT
I’ll be honest: I doubted Boston from the get go. I thought they sort of lucked into the #1 seed when the Cavs went on that late-season slide. After losing the two opening games to the Bulls, I thought they were done. And then, after advancing, I again (wrongly) thought they were doomed. Then they peeled off two victories to open the series against the Wizards behind an emotional Isaiah Thomas. Just goes to show that I don’t know much about basketball sometimes.
After sitting on their heels for the past nine days waiting for this, game one may be the Cavs most vulnerable moment. The Warriors sure as heck looked slow and rusty in our game one (thanks in no small part to the dominance of Kawhi Leonard). If the Celtics can win one -or both - of the games to open this series it would do wonders to help assuage concerns about the “Leastern” conference and hopefully give the Warriors some good ideas about how to defend the Cavs.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here. Odds are that the Cavs are going to steamroll the Celtics..or wait, what was that? A close to even chance you say, internet? As per the ESPN 538 blog, the Cavs Celtics series is pretty much a dead heat somehow. They’ve got the eventual victor split pretty much dead even, favoring the Celtics 52% to 48%. In fact, those crazy statisticians have the Celtics pegged as the pregame favorite tonight (63% chance of winning).
LeBron James is a polarizing player, but there is pretty much zero doubt that he’s the best player in the NBA, especially when we are talking about the post season. After “coasting” to another dominant regular season, LeSwitch has indeed been flipped.
According the NBA.com preview these numbers are pretty damn staggering: “...34.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 7.1 apg while shooting 55.7 percent overall and 46.8 percent on 3-pointers...” The Cavs as a team are feeding off this on the offensive end, their team is posting an eFG - a measure of shot effectiveness that considers the extra value of made three pointers - of 57.9, (just a hair ahead of the Warriors mark of 56.2).
Can the Celtics do anything about it?
The Celtics rank third defensively in the playoffs, but no team scored more efficiently against Boston in the regular season than the Cavs did, and they won 3 out of the 4 regular season matchups. Plus, playoff LeBron...
But Boston is not without offensive weapons of their own. If they are able to run their offense, expect to see them attack Kevin Love and any of the other myriad options of Cavs’ weak defenders using pick and rolls and off-ball screens. They’ll have to keep pace with the Cavs offense so will also almost certainly emphasize attacking in transition, where the Cavs were dead last defensively during the regular season. The Celtics have a fairly well-balanced team attack, ranking high in offense and higher in defense. They have the tools to win, and a soft defense to attack. Let’s see if they can pull it off.
Cavs in 6