The Eastern Conference Finals is set. The Boston Celtics will host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night to kick-off the series after a long seven games series against the Washington Wizards.
Boston Celtics lead by 5’9 Isaiah Thomas had a tough route to get here. The sudden death of Thomas’ sister and a 0-2 deficit against Chicago Bulls the Celtics fought back and won four straight games to head into the Conference Semifinals. A match-up against the Washington Wizards and a John Wall game winning three-point shot forced a game seven. In that very same game seven the Celtics ran away late thanks to extra help from Kelly Olynyk. The Celtics have shown resilience to bounce-back from any challenge so far in the postseason.
Vegas has already written off the Celtics and most have agreed. Boston is ranked 25th in defensive rebounding this year. They will have to do a better job on the boards and avoid giving LeBron James extra possessions.
Al Horford is having a great playoffs so far and will have to continue to give Boston a chance in this series. Horford is averaging 16 points and seven rebound is this years playoffs. Horford’s ability to shoot the ball from the outside will be key for Boston. Having a center like Horford will force Cleveland to do a lot of switching especially when Boston decide to run pick-n-roll with Isaiah Thomas and Horford.
Boston Celtics have not played a team as deep as Cleveland. Boston was able to take advantage off the Wizards poor excuse for a bench. It will not be the same against Cleveland. Cleveland’s bench can produce and will produce with this long rest they had. If Boston will have to continue to have an efficient bench likewise in game seven against the Wizards. However, the expectation shouldn’t be for Kelly Olynyk to score 14 of 26 in the fourth quarter against the Cavaliers.
Marcus Smart in this playoffs is averaging 8.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4 assist. The former Oklahoma State star has had his impact on the first two series. From taking big charges late, getting offensive rebounds, and making big plays for others. Smart has done it all. Coming off the bench Smart’s ability to play both guards and defend both spots will be very important, although Smart is not a great outside shooter he is capable of hitting outside shots and he is not afraid of taking those big shots as well. He will be a bigger body to throw at Lebron James defensively. Smart’s role in slowing down James will be key for the Celtics.
Can you remember the last time Cleveland lost a game? I can’t either maybe sometime in the regular season. Cleveland was able to cruise through the first two-rounds going 8-0.
Tristan Thompson has played very well so far averaging 7.8 points and 10.6 rebounds. We know Thompson will give you the rebounding and the toughness. In this series Thompson will have his handful. Thompson has not played against bigs like Al Horford and Kelly Olynyk. Both Olynyk and Horford will give Thompson trouble because both of them can space the floor with their shooting, and both can put the ball on the floor well enough at their size. Thompson does not have the foot speed to keep up with them on the perimeter. The way Thompson wins this battle is having them work on the defensive end. Boston bigs all struggle to rebound if Thompson can put pressure by crashing the glass and getting Boston bigs in foul trouble early will help Cleveland.
Kevin Love has played very inconstant against Toronto in the second round. The close-out game against Toronto Love finished with just five points and six rebounds. Love is key to Cleveland’s success. Love has to get it going early against the likes of guarded Amir Johnson. Johnson not a bad defender but will struggle to keep Love in front of him because Johnson is not accustom to defending jump shooting bigs.
Isaiah Thomas has played extremely well in this playoffs. In order for Boston to win Thomas will have to keep his high level play going. Cleveland will have there hands full guarding the Seattle native. Thomas is a great offensive player and pretty good passer too. Thomas is still tiny. Thomas excels in pick-n-rolls because teams end up switching putting a big in front of Thomas, which Thomas usually blow by them. Thomas struggles on the defensive end when he’s switched on to a taller and more skilled player. Similar to what the Wizards did by forcing Thomas to switch on Bradley Beal, the Cavaliers may force Thomas to guard Irving.
Cleveland dominated the regular season series against Boston especially in the April 5th match-up in Boston where the Cavaliers lead by 29 points in that game. LeBron James will be seeking to win wrap this series up and head to his seventh straight NBA Finals. His dominance continues and as it seems he’s unstoppable unless its an injury (Please Basketball Gods don’t allow that to happen).
Final prediction? Too much King James for Boston to handle: Cleveland in 5.