The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics kick off what is sure to be a physical series at the TD Garden on Wednesday night. There is a fair amount of bad blood between these teams. Something that will surely lead to some sparks throughout this series.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics
Where? TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Where on my eyeballs? TNT
The last time these teams met, the Cavaliers manhandled the Celtics 114-91 in Boston without Tristan Thompson. The game seemed to point towards the switch that the Cavs could flip whenever they felt motivated, although the lackluster weeks that followed once again brought doubt into the fold.
Now, sporting an 8-0 record, the Cavs must head to Boston and try to take back the home-court advantage they appeared to gain on that night.
Game one of this series will likely be the most difficult for the Cavs. If the Celtics are going to extend this series, it’ll be due to a lack of execution by Cleveland. Whether it be as a result of turnovers, failing to make them pay on the boards, or sloppy execution on the defensive end, the Celtics need help from the Cavs to extend this series. Following nine days off, game one rust may prove to be Boston’s best chance at capitalizing on that.
Like all games for the Celtics, their success will be determined by Isaiah Thomas. After the heartbreaking loss of his sister in the first round, Thomas has battled through the pain and lead an impressive Celtics run to the Conference Finals. While it often felt as though they were outplayed against the Wizards, they found ways to win and move on.
For the Cavs, their ability to limit Thomas will determine how much success they have on the defensive end. In the past the team has tried to get teams out of their rhythm offensively by making role players make decisions. They have achieved this by trapping hard and forcing the primary initiator to give the ball up.
Against Thomas, the best method to slow him down will likely include both trapping, and targeting him on the defensive end of the floor. The Cavs have not been shy in past playoff series to abandon the game plan and isolate a poor defender like Thomas. Regardless of where Boston tries to hide him, I anticipate the Cavs will try to involve him on the pick and roll and force Boston to either switch, or bring a double team.
The other key for this series will be the play of Al Horford. Over the past three seasons, Horford has struggled in a big way against Tristan Thompson. Thompson is bigger, quicker, and more physical than Horford. This season, Horford shot just 35.7 percent from the field with Thompson on him. Without a meaningful threat paired next to him like he had in Paul Millsap, the Cavs have no reason to move Thompson off of him at any point. If he continues to struggle as much as he has against Thompson, it likely won’t matter what Thomas does offensively. Boston simply doesn’t have enough firepower to keep up if both of Thomas and Horford aren’t simultaneously spectacular.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
Jitters and rust will plague the Cavs early while they miss open shots they would typically hit. After the first seven minutes or so, they will settle down and get into their rhythm. The Cavs are the better team and are not particularly fond of this Boston team. I expect them to come out with focus and look to make a statement. Cavs win 109-97.