With all that’s gone on with both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics this season, who could have guessed that what felt like an inevitable matchup during training camp would still come to pass. These two teams have seen it all, from catastrophic injuries to team-altering trades to tough first round series. Now, they’ll be playing for a trip to the NBA Finals.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics, Game 1
When: 3:30 p.m.
Where: TD Garden; Boston, Massachusetts
Enemy Blog: Celtics Blog
Online: Watch ESPN
Cavs injuries: None to report
Celtics injuries: Kyrie Irving (OUT — knee surgery), Gordon Hayward, (OUT — ankle fracture), Shane Larkin (OUT — shoulder), Daniel Theis (OUT — knee)
Three keys to the game:
- So who is going to draw the LeBron James assignment for the Celtics? The safest bet is probably that they do it by committee. Jaylen Brown will certainly get his reps but they don’t want him expending too much energy on James when they need him scoring on the other end. Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris will each likely get shots at James. No matter who is guarding him though, if James can bully his way into the paint he’s going to have the advantage in any of those matchups.
- Against the Raptors, Kevin Love finally found his offensive flow. But against the Celtics, he will face a tough test at the 5 if Boston sticks Al Horford onto him. Unlike against Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas, Love won’t have automatic advantage on the perimeter against Horford. How he reacts to the change of pace in Game 1 will be huge.
- What do we really know about this matchup? Honestly it’s hard to say considering the Cavs have looked different each time they played the Celtics this season. The last time these two face off on Feb. 11, the Cavs won 121-99 in the debut game in Wine and Gold for George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson following the trade deadline. Game 1 is going to be a better indicator for how the rest of this series is going to go than any stat currently available between these two teams.
While a couple of intriguing matchups are listed above, perhaps the most intriguing of all will be Hill and “Scary” Terry Rozier. In Irving’s absence, Rozier has stepped up offensively, averaging 18.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists through 12 playoff games. Hill’s length and athleticism on the perimeter should certainly cause Rozier some problems. On the flip side, Hill has scored in double-digits in five of his last six postseason games.
Fear the Sword’s fearless prediction:
Brad Stevens is a great coach who won’t have a solution for a rested LeBron James in Game 1. Cavs 120, Celtics 110.