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Cavs, Celtics Eastern Conference Preview 

Cavs, Celtics Eastern Conference Preview 

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Celtics Cavs Eastern Conference Finals Preview

Come the start of the Eastern Conference Finals it will be ten days since the Cavs have played a basketball game. So now the only question is can the Celtics over throw the champions, or will LeBron and the Cavs make their 3rd trip in a row to the finals (6 for LeBron).

The Cavs have yet to lose in the 2017 playoffs while the Celtics have played a total of 13 against the Bulls and Wizards. The Cavs were 3-1 against the Celtics in the regular season, with their last matchup being a complete blowout in the Cavs favor. The question for the Cavs since the All-Star break is can they fix their defensive woes, or will their declining defensive statistics prove too much of an obstacle to overcome. Will the Celtics who finished the regular season as the number one seed led by 5 foot 9 guard Isiah Thomas be enough to dethrone the Cavs, let’s explore below.

On paper these two teams would be considered evenly matched if you leave out the head to head record. In the regular season the Cavs shot 47% and 38% from the three point line. The Celtics shot 45% and 35% respectively. Now this does ignore the fact the Cavs for the majority of the season played without their projected starting line very much and only 35 games with in season acquisition Kyle Korver. In head to head matchups the Cavs shot 49% and 43% from three while the Celtics shot 46% and 37% from three with both teams shooting higher than their regular season averages. Where the Cavs had a clear advantage was on the rebounding edge, grabbing 27 more rebounds in total and an average of 6 more per game and were out rebounded on the offensive glass by a total of 13 and an average of 3 per game. Which is where the Boston should have some concern, the Cavs don’t have the deepest front line, and should be an area they can control to keep the Cavs to one shot per possession with their abundance of big and agile big men. The Celtics have to work to get the Cavs in foul trouble and exploit that weakness, if you can force the Cavs to go small, you enhance your own chances of dominating the glass which should also give you favorable matchups in pick and roll situations.

In the regular season the Celtics did a decent overall job holding the Cavs to 34% from three point land, however, in their last matchup the Cavs shot 41% when they had a semblance of their full roster. The question in series where the teams look evenly matched is what role players will show up and produce on the road and will your stars have enough gas to carry you the entire series.

Courtesy of Cavs.com

LEBRON JAMES before game Game of the eastern conference finals

The Cavs have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, the only one of those three to consistently show up to match their average play has been LeBron. Though in game 4 against the Raptors, Kyrie took over the 4th quarter to close the series and while Love hasn’t had many games with 20+ points he’s averaging 9 rebounds and shooting 40% per game. Their role players seemed to find their comfort zone against the Raptors to fill in the production. J.R. Smith has played some of the best defense in his career and Deron Williams has found his jumper somewhere on a plane ride from Indian or Toronto. The Cavs have many different lineup combinations they can put forth that can cause nightmares for their opponent. They Cavs have the ability to field one of the ultimate choose your poison lineups in which all you can do is pray the Cavs are missing shots. LeBron, Kyrie, Love, Korver and Smith, how do you defend that? Do you play them straight up, shade coverage to the side of the ball handler, double LeBron or Kyrie when they have the ball? There is no easy answer, but Celtics coach will have to find an answer to quell the Cavs potential for open shots on drive and kick opportunities. Where the Cavs are most dangerous is when they’re playing very good defense, and are able to push the ball in transition and even if they don’t score, they’re able to have moving bodies while LeBron or Kyrie create or themselves or others. With that being said, the Cavs are prone to poor body movement which results in the ball sticking to one point of the floor, which allows the defenders to stay at home on the player they’re guarding. It doesn’t require or force the defense to make a tough decision. If you look the offense against the Indian Pacers there were plenty of times the offense slowed down and was stagnant and the Pacers length was able to affect the Cavs. The Celtics have multiple defenders that can guard 3 positions in the event of a pick and roll switch.

LeBron is the cheat code that gives your team a chance and separates you from the pack if all things were equal.

The Celtics on the flip side have to find a viable second offensive performer to support Isiah Thomas. As seen in their game 7 against the Washington Wizards the way their offense is set up, any one guy can go off and produce, however, I wouldn’t want to apply that level of pressure to any of the role players on the Celtics bench to have to produce. Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson are nice pieces, yet if you are relying on them to be the punch you need to overtake LeBron, that may not be enough. Where the Celtics can take advantage is their front line, Al Horford, Olynyk, Johnson, Jae Crowder, all can bang with you down low, but can also do a fair job guarding you on the outside. They’re not individually a force on offense, though as a collective for a formidable group. We can all assume Isiah Thomas will perform; death in his family and missing tooth he’s been able to focus to have outstanding playoffs run thus far. Assuming Kyrie will be the primary player guarding him he won’t have the size advantage, and Kyrie hasn’t proven himself to be a consistent above average defender, often times getting caught in multiple switches Thomas will have plenty opportunity to put up points. Will the Cavs implement a similar tactic they used against Indiana and Toronto trapping the lead guy and forcing someone else to beat them or will they play them more straight up? Will they give the assignment to someone other than Kyrie so they can save him for offense and place him to guard someone who’s not as offensively powerful?

With all that being said, the Cavs have LeBron James, still the best player in the league, player at an extremely high level. He’s been more efficient, shooting a higher fg% and 3fg% than his regular season averages. LeBron is the cheat code that gives your team a chance and separates you from the pack if all things were equal. This may be the Cavs hardest test this playoff season, though this won’t be the one to take them down. LeBron’s run will eventually come to a close, but the book has a few more pages before we get to the back cover.

Cavs in 5 games and they make their 3rdconsecutive trip to the Finals and LeBron’s historical 7th trip

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