It seems like a lifetime ago that the Cleveland Cavaliers last played a basketball game. When they take the floor in Boston on Wednesday, it will have been 10 days since they played a real contest.
And with the first two games in Boston Garden, when the wine and gold comes home for game three, it will have been 18 days since they last took the court in Quicken Loans Arena.
Boston earned the home court advantage by winning 53 regular season games, compared to Cleveland’s 51 victories, but in terms of point differential, the Cavs show to be better, outscoring their opponents by 3.1 points (110.3 to 107.2) compared to the Celtics 2.6 (108.0 to 105.4).
The Celts have a reputation of being a very good defensive team, holding opponents to a 45% field goal percentage.
However, the team the Cavaliers just eliminated, the Toronto Raptors, were even better at 44.9%.
One decided advantage Cleveland has is on the boards. Boston ranks low in that category, meaning Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love should control the glass.
As we know, Tyronn Lue likes to make someone other than the opponents’ best player to beat him in a playoff series, so no doubt the wine and gold will focus on Isaiah Thomas, who led Boston in scoring at 28.9 points per game, 12.6 more than the next best scorer, Avery Bradley.
We would expect Lue will blitz Thomas, forcing the ball out of his hands.
When the Cavs beat the Celts in the last regular season matchup in Boston, our thought was Boston had no answer for the game’s best player, LeBron James.
Boston’s starting small forward is Jae Crowder, who is just 6’6″. A wise man said the problem with James is if you are big enough, you aren’t quick enough, and if you are quick enough, you aren’t big enough.
That capsulizes the Celtics’ problem perfectly.
Crowder can’t check LeBron, and we are pretty sure Brad Stevens knows it. And of course, if you double him, he will find the bevy of shooters Cleveland has on its roster.
We also expect Lue to put Kyrie Irving (6’3″) in the post when he is being guarded by Thomas, who at best is 5’9″.
We would expect Stevens to do what he did in the first round matchup between the two teams in 2015, be very physical with the Cavs to get a reaction.
However, that was the first playoff experience for many of the Cavaliers. This time, they are old heads, with a championship under their belt.
Still, this isn’t to dismiss Boston. They are extremely well coached, as Stevens is one of the finest basketball minds in America. But Lue can match him in X’s and O’s too.
What we are interested to see is what kind of gimmicks defensively the Celtics’ coach will come up with to stop the Cavs. Perhaps he will make James a scorer first and try to cut off everyone else.
To combat this, Lue will try to make Kevin Love a scorer. Love will draw Al Horford or Amir Johnson as a defender. If it’s Horford, Love should go inside, if it’s Johnson, he will go outside.
We usually can find ways for the Cavaliers to lose if they don’t do certain things, so it scares us that we really can’t find anything in this series.
Cleveland should win and should win fairly easily and advance to The NBA Finals for the third straight year.
It would be great to go into Beantown tomorrow, and punch the Celtics in the face to show them early in the series there isn’t hope.
We will find out starting tomorrow night.