If you’re a fan of physical half-court basketball, this is the series for you. The Celtics and Cavaliers will renew their playoff rivalry tonight for game one at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Elbows will be flying, bodies dropping, and the crowds will be rocking in Cleveland and Boston. It was only two years ago when the defensive-minded Celtics knocked off a one-man wrecking crew in Lebron James and the Cavaliers in a seven game battle in root to the 2008 NBA championship. However the Cavaliers front office have supplied James with a better supporting cast of Shaquille O’Neal in the middle, Mo Williams as a deadly outside shooter/ball handler, and Antawn Jamison as another veteran go-to-scorer. The Celtics are still an elite team with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen leading the way in terms of leadership and scoring production, however Rajon Rondo emerged this season as the Celtics most important player (13.6 points, 9.8 assists in 81 regular season games). He will look to get into the passing lanes and look to strip the ball from Mo Williams and convert those turnovers into fast break scoring opportunities. If there’s potential series upset, I believe it’s this series because of the Celtics ability to win on the road (Boston 26-15 in the regular season on the road), the Celtics’ playoff experience, James’ elbow problem and the crunch time capabilities of Paul Pierce. This should be a very interesting series to say least and would be shocked if this series doesn’t go at least six games.
Regular Season Series: The Celtics and Cavaliers split their four regular season meetings with each team winning a game on the opponent’s home court.
Series Schedule: Game 1-Sat. May 1st, 8:00PM ET (TNT)
Game 2-Mon. May 3rd, 8:00PM ET (TNT)
Game 3-Fri. May 7th, 7:00PM ET (ESPN)
Game 4-Sun. May 9th, 3:30PM ET (ABC)
Game 5-Tue. May 11th, TBD (TNT)*
Game 6-Thu. May13th, TBD (ESPN)*
Game 7-Sun. May 16th, 3:30PM ET (ABC)*
The “X” Factor: The elbow of Lebron James also known as the most valuable elbow. It’s no secret James is the key to the Cavaliers title hopes and if he’s not right physically, the Celtics chances of winning this series dramatically increases. However, Cavalier fans should be encouraged because James was able to shoot free throws and mid-range with his right hand without limitations during practice on Friday.
Cleveland will win the series if: They play like the team that won 61 games in the regular season and if James doesn’t suffer from any lingering problems with his shooting elbow.
Boston will win the series if: James is struggling with his shooting elbow. The Boston Three Party of Pierce, Garnett and Allen will have to play as though they haven’t won a championship because all three have played like fat cats at times, been injured or seen a decline in their production since their championship in 2008. It would also help if Rasheed Wallace actually played like a legitimate big man instead of a guard.
Prediction: The Celtics will try to make this series a defensive struggle; however I think the Cavaliers just have too much depth for the veteran Celtics to overcome. I expect the Cavaliers to prevail in six games in a hard fought series.