BOSTON– Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics takes place on Sunday afternoon. Both teams had a season filled with ups and downs, and there were times that it was questionable whether either team would make it this far in the postseason. Yet, somehow, here we are, with LeBron James four wins away from his eighth straight NBA Finals.
When: 3:30 p.m.
Online: Watch ESPN
Radio: WTAM 1100, La Mega 87.7 FM
Cavs injuries: None to report
Celtics injuries: Kyrie Irving (knee surgery– OUT), Gordon Hayward, (ankle fracture– OUT), Shane Larkin (shoulder– OUT), Daniel Theis (knee– OUT)
1. Heavy is the head that wears the crown
Let’s be real, LeBron James is the first key for any of the Cavs’ playoff series. In Boston, James has won eight career playoff games, giving him more wins in TD Garden than all but four guys on Boston’s current roster (Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier with 14; Al Horford and Jaylen Brown with 12).
He’s averaging an NBA-high 34.3 points during the playoffs, so how exactly will Boston try to defend him? Expect some reps from Jaylen Brown, but lots of reps from Marcus Smart. James still bullying his way into the lane and finishing at the rim is going to be key to his success in either matchup.
2. How will Boston defend screens?
Last series, Toronto switched basically every screen action the Cavs threw at them. In that instance, the duos of Kevin Love and Kyle Korver, and Love and George Hill were able to create offensive mismatches that allowed all three of them to thrive and get open looks. If Boston head coach Brad Stevens moves away from that switching, the Cavs will need to adjust quickly and can’t expect to get the same types of looks.
3. Who can be scarier?
George Hill clearly is a sort of X-factor for the Cavs on both ends of the floor, as evident by his performance against Toronto and the way the Cavs struggled without him against the Indiana Pacers. He will likely draw the defensive assignment of guarding “Scary” Terry Rozier, who has done his best to fill the offensive vacuum left in the wake of Kyrie Irving. In these playoffs, Rozier is averaging 18.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists. While Hill is averaging 10.3 points, his bigger impact this series would be shutting down Rozier on the defensive end.