Cleveland Versus Boston PreviewEastern Conference Second Round
#1 Cleveland (61-21) vs. #4 Boston (50-32)
Season series: Tied, 2-2
Boston can win if…the Celtics turn back the clock and recapture the defensive intensity that they displayed during their 2008 championship season. The Celtics will also need to receive strong offensive production from at least two of their "Big Four" (Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo) to win any given game.
Cleveland will win because…the Cavs have the best individual player in the series (LeBron James) and the best overall depth. Both teams are defensive-minded but the Cavs can shift lineups from big to small and uptempo to slow tempo much more readily than the Celtics can. Other than the Rajon Rondo-Mo Williams duel at point guard the Celtics do not appear to enjoy any individual matchup advantages: the Celtics like to push teams around but the Cavs can match them man for man in the frontcourt, James has an edge over Pierce at small forward and the combination of Anthony Parker plus Delonte West should be able to contain Ray Allen, though Allen might break out for one big game.
Other things to consider: When these teams faced each other in the 2008 playoffs the Celtics had a hungry trio of Hall of Famers in their primes who had yet to taste championship glory while the Cavs were still getting used to playing together after a series of roster moves--and the Cavs still nearly beat the Celtics. Now the Celtics are older, less dominant and not quite as desperate to win the championship while the Cavs have a superstar in his prime who has yet to win a title plus veteran All-Stars who are either seeking one final run at glory (Shaquille O'Neal) or else a first taste of winning it all (Antawn Jamison, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mo Williams). Over the past two years, GM Danny Ferry molded this roster specifically to match up with the Celtics, Magic and Lakers, so this series will be an important measuring stick for the team's progress.
You can find a more in depth take on this series in my newest article for CavsNews.com:
Reloaded Cavs Seek Revenge Against Aging Celtics
posted by David Friedman @ 2:12 PM