Boston Has a Legit Chance to Win the East Now:
First off I’ll be honest at the beginning of the season I like many of the rest of the NBA basketball fans pretty much penciled in a Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors trilogy coming in June, however, after consistently watching the what the Boston Celtics have played this season I am not as sold as I once was on a Finals rematch. Now I know that LeBron James has pretty much dominated the Eastern conference in the playoffs winning “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five,” but six straight NBA Eastern Conference championships however that was then this is now. While I am not completely sold on the Celtics defeating the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals, I will give you a few reasons why an upset could be looming.
Home Court Advantage Could Be In Boston’s Favor:
The Celtics are currently .5 Games ahead of the Cavs for the top seed in the East and if they maintain their edge they would have home court advantage over the Cavaliers if two teams meet in the conference finals. Of course that is a huge “if” right now as there are a handful of games left in the NBA regular season, but just in case it happens Boston boasts a 28-10 record (nearly a 74% winning percentage) at TD Garden this season. Cleveland has a record of just 19-19 in road games this year. Now I know a lot of NBA fans will dwell on the fact that the Cavaliers defeated the Warriors in an epic game seven in the Finals at Oracle last season and my counter-argument to that is the question how did the series got to a game seven in the first place? However, I will save that debate for another day as I would like to focus on this season.
Where is the Defense?
Part of the reason the Cavaliers won the championship last season was their defense in which they were ninth during the playoffs in points allowed by opponents (104) but this season the Cavs are ranked 23rd in defensive rating according to NBA.com. Meanwhile Celtics are eighth in offensive rating, averaging nearly 108 points a game, and are fourth in assists per game (25). On the defensive end Boston is ranked 11th allowing 105.4 points per game from opponents, while Cleveland is fourth in points per game (110). So although Cleveland ranks in the bottom half of the league in defense, its offense is pretty efficient but we all know defense wins championships especially after witnessing one of the greatest blocks I have ever seen by LeBron James in game seven of the NBA Finals last year.
Al Horford to The Rescue:
This off-season the Boston Celtics enhanced their front court by signing an All Star caliber forward/ Center in Al Horford. He started off slow in meshing with his new team but lately Horford has been able to bring multiple skill sets to the Celtics in his abilities to stretch the floor, be a rim protector, and his court vision to find open teammates. Horford is averaging nearly 14 points per game, a team-high seven rebounds, and is second on the team in assists per game (five). Also Al is shooting a respectable 36 percent from 3 and nearly 80 percent from the foul line.
Don’t Forget The Little Guy:
Perhaps the most important reason why the Celtics have a legit chance to upset the Cavs is due to the stellar play and desire to win from their All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas. Lost in the triple double madness of Russell Westbrook and James Harden is the rise of IT’s emergence as the “Star” in Boston. Thomas, while standing at 5’9 , is second in the NBA in scoring with an average of 29 points per game. Even more impressive is the fact that he only shoots the ball around 20 times a game, shoots 38 percent from 3, and makes over 90 percent of his free throw attempts.
Of course a lot of Celtics doubters will point out that the game slows down in the playoffs and defenses will key in on IT, but he is a willing passer and has options on the perimeter. Celtics starters’ Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley shoot the 3 at 39 percent and 40 respectively so the penetration in the lane by Isaiah could mean a lot of open three-point attempts for both players.
Bottom Line, Keep Your Eyes Open:
In conclusion, while I am not completely sold on Boston beating the Cavaliers in a possible ECF match-up due to the pure “Greatness” of LeBron James, I won’t be shocked if it happened this year. The Celtics have all the pieces to pull off one of the biggest upsets in sports this May, as well as a potential top five pick in the NBA draft in June so they won’t be going away anytime soon.