Eastern Conference Semifinals: #4 Seed Boston Celtics Vs. #1 Seed Cleveland Cavaliers
Both teams are coming off impressive Eastern Conference quarterfinal play. The Celtics handled the Miami Heat with little difficulty while the Cavs were able to win their series against the Bulls in 5 games. These two teams have split their regular season match with two wins apiece and each team pulling off a win on the road. This should prove to be a highly competitive series when these two Eastern Conference powerhouses face off.
Keys for the Cavs:
Injuries: The number one concern for Cleveland going into the series has got to be the health of their superstar LeBron James. After injuring his right arm in game 5 against Chicago, James went for an X-ray and MRI on his elbow and both came back clean. However, there is no denying that he is in some pain and it will be interesting to see if this injury has an effect of King James and his play against the Celtics.
Shaq: Another key for the Cavs will be the play of veteran center Shaquille O’Neal. After sitting out much of the season with an injury, Shaq put in some quality play in the series against the Bulls averaging 9.2 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game in just 20 minutes per game. If Shaq can stay out of foul trouble and be a force on the boards the Celtics could be in trouble.
Keys for the Celtics
Defense: The Boston defense was superb for much of the first round series against the Heat, holding Miami to just 38% field goal percentage over the course of the series. In addition, Boston guards did a great job of limiting Dwayne Wade’s production in most of the games. The only question will be if this can carry over to their second round matchup against LeBron James and Cleveland.
Perimeter Shooting: Right now the Celtics are on fire from the outside. This recent onslaught from the outside has been led by veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen. ESPN reports that Allen averaged 19.2 points per game against the Heat while shooting a blistering 53% from beyond the 3 point line. If he can keep this up the Cavs are going to give him addition defense attention which could create more openings for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Prediction: I simply can’t see the Celtics making it past the Cavs in this series. I feel that Boston is an aging group that simply isn’t as good as they have been in past years. However, the Cavs have some serious question marks regarding the health of LeBron James and that could play a huge part in determining the winner of this series. In the end, I’ve got to go with Cleveland in 7 games.