Well, it’s finally here. The Eastern Conference Finals. Cavaliers. Celtics. Game 1 is Wednesday at Boston.
Here are four things the Cavs will need to consider, with hopes of advancing to the NBA Finals for the third straight season:
1. Don’t let Isaiah Thomas go nuts.
The Celtics’ point guard is quick, crafty, and capable of beating you all by himself. It’s true that Thomas is 5-foot-9 on a good day, but he can take over the game like a pint-sized LeBron James. He drives, he dishes, he plays with as much heart as anyone in basketball history. The Cavs guards will need to keep Thomas in front of them, and the big men can’t go for blocks. He always finds ways to squeeze the ball under the arms of taller defenders.
2. Actually, let Thomas go nuts.
Yeah, this is the exact opposite of the above point, but that’s OK. One theory in the Cavs’ inner circles is to let Thomas score 50 (maybe not 50,but you get the idea) and keep the likes of Celtics center Al Horford and guard Avery Bradley from getting overly involved. That theory states that Thomas isn’t going to be able to do it alone. (In that sense, he’s very much unlike LeBron.) Oh, and apparently the Cavs will need to keep tabs on old nemesis Kelly Olynyk — who went bananas in the Celtics Game 7 win over the Wizards on Monday.
3. Use Love to overcome bullying.
The Celtics are the better defensive team and definitely the more all-around physical team. They don’t match up with the Cavs in terms of basketball talent. But they play hard, they play together, and they don’t mind putting you on the ground. That means you, Kevin Love. For as good as Love is as a rebounder and player willing to mix it up underneath, the Celtics believe they can completely remove him mentally from the series. They think Love is, for the most part, soft. And they will try to torment him. They know they can’t slow LeBron, they know they can’t defend Kyrie Irving. It’s no secret that their plan is to make Love disappear.
4. Win at least one of the first two on the road.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, duh. Of course the Cavs need to win one. Well, not really. They’re good enough to fall behind by a 2-0 count and still win the series. But they don’t want to go that route, especially if they make it back to the Finals. They need to win Game 1, or at the very least, Game 2. Then they need to take care of business at home. Then this thing will be over in five or six and it’s back to rest. The Cavs are gonna need it once again.
PREDICTION: Cavs will lose a close Game 1, then win four straight. So, Cavs in five.