For the 40th time in postseason history, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics will once again meet up in a playoff series and for the second straight postseason, it’ll be in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Cleveland is making it’s fourth consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearance and are looking to make it to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance led by Lebron James who is trying to make it to his 8th consecutive Finals.
Boston is trying to make it to it’s first NBA Finals appearance since the 2010 season and their first appearance under head coach Brad Stevens who is in his fifth season as coach of the historic franchise.
Both teams have had interesting paths to get to this point this season.
Cleveland won 50 games in the regular season despite turmoil throughout and a major roster overhaul at the trade deadline but Lebron James turned in the most dominant season in his 15 year career with 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game and played all 82 games for the first time in his career.
Boston had high hopes coming into the season with the additions of #3 overall pick Jayson Tatum, free agent signing Gordon Hayward and acquisition of Kyrie Irving from Cleveland.
Hayward dislocated his left ankle and fractured his tibia in the season opener against Cleveland and ended his season only a few minutes into it. Kyrie Irving played in 60 games and playing at his typical All-Star level before a knee injury ended his season in March.
Many thought this would end the Celtics championship hopes but Stevens rallied the troops and has helped lead Boston to this point in the postseason. A blend of youth and veterans pushed the Celtics to 55 wins and the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
1st Round: Cavs defeated Pacers (4 games to 3)
2nd round: Cavs defeated Raptors (4 games to 0)
1st round: Celtics defeated Bucks (4 games to 3)
2nd round: Celtics defeated 76ers (4 games to 1)
Points: Lebron James-34.3 PPG
Rebounds: Kevin Love-10.1 RPG
Assists: Lebron James-9 APG
Blocks: Lebron James-1 BPG
Steals: Lebron James-1.5 SPG
Points: Jayson Tatum-18.8 PPG
Rebounds: Al Horford-8.7 RPG
Assists: Terry Rozier-5.8 APG
Blocks: Al Horford-1.3 BPG
Steals: Marcus Smart-1.8 SPG
I know some people expect the Cavaliers to smash the Celtics the way they did the Toronto Raptors and they may do just that but I don’t think it’s going to be easy.
Boston has had obstacles thrown their way all season with the injuries to Hayward and Irving and everyone was writing them off including myself.
Brad Stevens is arguably the best coach in the NBA and has done a fantastic job with this group of players led by veteran Al Horford and the young guns Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart.
Tatum has been the most impressive of that young nucleus because he’s 19 years old and while Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell were the top dawgs in the rookie class, he was in the shadows and had a solid rookie season on a great team.
Rozier has stepped up since Irving went down and shown he can be a solid point guard in this league and it’s going to pay off for him when he becomes a free agent next summer unless Boston shockingly decides to go with him over Irving in the future.
I expect them to give Cleveland a hard time but that doesn’t mean I don’t think Cleveland isn’t going to win this series.
They still have Lebron James who is the best player on the planet currently and I can say without a doubt is the greatest player of all-time. To be 33 years old in his 15th NBA season and doing the things he’s done on the court this season has been phenomenal.
While he carried the Cavaliers through the first round, his teammates stepped up in the second round to show that it’s not just the Lebron show on the Cavaliers squad.
Kevin Love averaged 20.5 points and 11.5 rebounds against Toronto.
Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, Jeff Green and George Hill also averaged in double figures in scoring in the series and Tristan Thompson has shown since Game 7 against Indiana that he can still make a difference and help the Cavaliers on the defensive end as well as grabbing offensive rebounds.
I fully expect Stevens will game plan to pressure Lebron to force the supporting cast to have to make plays but they like they showed against Toronto and these players except Jeff Green have been on this stage many times before and I believe will answer the call.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will win this series in six games and will head to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals.