Series Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers vs Boston Celtics
*Photo via AP
The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the playoffs for the first time since losing to the Boston Celtics in the 2010 Conference Semis. That was the last game LeBron James played in a Cavs uniform before returning home this season, and in Cleveland’s return to the playoffs, the number two seeded Cavs will play those Celtics who ranked seventh in the East.
A lot of things have changed since their last playoff meeting. James won two rings in Miami, and the coach and core of that Boston team is gone and has been replaced by a young group of overachieving players. While we won’t see the same intense, competitive matchups between these two teams we saw in James’ first Cleveland stint, it still makes for a nice story line.
Previous matchups this season:
CLE @ BOS: 122-121
BOS @ CLE: 79-110
BOS @ CLE: 99-90
CLE @ BOS: 78-117
The biggest advantage the Cavs have is that they simply have much more talent. Cleveland’s offense is much more explosive, as James can drive the lane and score, or dish out to Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith or Kevin Love for three. Irving and Smith have been on fire offensively and will be tough for Boston to defend.
The biggest weakness for the Cavs is their playoff inexperience. They have a rookie head coach who’s never coached a playoff game, and two of their stars, Irving and Love, haven’t played a minute in the postseason.
The Cav’s X-factor will be LeBron James. When you have the best player in the world and he now has two rings on his resume, he’ll be the X-factor in any series. He’s not going to have a hard time playing well, but he’s going to need to teach the young players how to play playoff basketball and handle being the favorites, maintaining focus in every game.
The biggest advantage the Celtics have going for them is that they are hot. They are 20-11 since the All-Star break, second best in the East, but unfortunately for them the Cavs are first in that category. They have also enjoyed recent success against the Cavs, winning their last two meetings.
The biggest weakness for the Celtics is the same for the Cavs, inexperience, but the only difference is the Cavs have some veterans. The Celtics are a predominately young team with a coach making his playoff debut. According to ESPN, James has played in more than 150 playoff games, and the Celtics team has played in just over 130 combined.
The X-factor for the Celtics will be their ball movement. They’re not a star-studded team, and they keep the ball moving to try to find the best shot. The Celtics rank fourth in assists per game, and they are going to need to keep the ball moving and make sure they hit their shots when they get a good look.
These are not your 2010 Celtics or Cavs, and this should be a quick series for Cleveland, who is most people’s favorite to win the East. I see James dominating this series and the Cavs sweeping Boston. The worst case scenario is Boston stealing one game just based off how well they’ve been playing, but that would be impressive. However, this playoff experience will build on an impressive second half of the season for Boston, so watch out for the Celtics next year.
Listing for the series:
BOS @ CLE 4/19 3PM ON ABC
BOS @ CLE 4/21 7PM ON TNT
CLE @ BOS 4/23 7PM ON TNT
CLE @ BOS 4/26 1PM ON ABC