Likely Cavs vs. Celtics Eeastern Conference Finals the way it should be

Jake Chapman says Celtics will be tough to handle

Jake Chapman
May 06, 2018 - 4:34 pm

© Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

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It’s Boston. It was always going to be Boston. Most Cavs fans assumed a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals this year would include a date with the young, dynamic Sixers. But as we’re seeing right now, and as the Cavs learned the hard way in Round 1, playoff basketball is a different animal.

The Pacers capitalized on Cleveland mistakes, brought superior physical intensity, played smart and executed their game plan throughout the series, almost to an historic result. Alas, the team with the best player ever triumphed in 7 games, in large part due to the best player ever.

Now, with the Cavs and Celtics both leading their series 3 games to none, it appears a Cleveland/Boston conference finals is a foregone conclusion. And Cavs fans better tap the brakes on that “we’ll roll through the Celtics” nonsense.

First thing’s first, both teams need to close their series out. But as we all know, no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a 7-game series.

For the Cavs especially, who are so reliant on contributions from role-playing veterans, as well as a certain 33-year-old, they must sweep the series. Philadelphia may still have some fight left, despite the dumbfounded head space they’re likely in after Saturday night’s premature confetti fiasco.

The Raptors have to be cooked. DeMar DeRozan was benched down the stretch in game 3, OG Anunoby hit the biggest shot of his life, and LeBron still sent them home with a glass-aided L. The Cavs need to put the Raptors out of their misery in game 4 and rest up for the C’s, because it’s going to be a war.

All those things I mentioned about Indiana and Round 1? Yea, the Celtics do them too. Some even better. Boston finished the regular season 2nd in the league in opponent field goal percentage and 3rd in points allowed. They were the best defensive team in the league per 100 possessions, with a rating of 101.5.

They played at the exact same pace as the Pacers, tied for 23rd in the league. Meanwhile the Raptors and Cavs were 12th and 13th in the league in pace. The Raptors play the Cavs game, just not as good as the Cavs. The Celtics play the Pacers game, only better.

The Celtics vs. Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals will be a grindhouse.

he Cavs will have the 2 best players on the court, but the Celtics will have the next 4.

The Celtics will have the coaching edge. Brad Stevens is arguably the best in the league, but let’s slow down before renaming it the Stevens Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Stevens has done an outstanding job this season without Gordon Hayward and this postseason without Hayward or Kyrie Irving. But it’s not like he’s coaching the Grizzlies. Danny Ainge has done a fabulous job of hitting on draft picks (Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown) and surrounding his young stars with solid veterans (Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes) and the forever underappreciated Al Horford.

Of course, it’d be a whole lot more fun if Kyrie were playing. It’d be more fun if Hayward was playing and Boston had its full complement. And it’d be really fun if there were a rematch next season featuring the Cavs' first round draft pick they received from the Celtics, with Kyrie, with Gordon, and with LeBron.

Here’s hoping this year’s conference finals rematch is the first of many.