Published: Sun, May 13, 2018
Sport | By Tony Jimenez

Celtics stand in way of LeBron James' eighth straight NBA Finals trip

Celtics stand in way of LeBron James' eighth straight NBA Finals trip

The NBA is down to its final four, with the Conference Finals starting on Sunday night at 8.30pm, Irish time, when James and the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Boston Celtics in a first to four wins, best of seven, series for the Eastern crown. Boston lost their top two players to season-ending injuries, and Cleveland traded almost half their roster in February. The one-week or so furlough could be crucial.

I would expect Mbah A Moute to get a lot of playing time off the bench against Kevin Durant as well.

Though oddsmakers saw the Toronto-Cleveland series as more evenly matched than Boston-Philadelphia, the Cavs were still a modest underdog - a status that went away after they won Game 1 in Toronto.

"But unless LeBron breaks from his past, there is not going to be an exit interview". And when the conference finals move to Cleveland on May 19 for Game 3 - the Celtics' first visit to Quicken Loans Arena since Hayward's gruesome opening night injury - this nascent core will attempt to again carry this veteran load.

It is actually a return bout between the two for this year's 2018 Eastern Conference trophy, with Cleveland prevailing last year before relinquishing its crown to Golden State in the NBA Finals via a 4-1 rout. This after the Celtics had only the ninth-best homecourt record during the regular season (27-14).

Still, pundits put their money on a Warrior-Cav crown clash in the end. "We have a lot more bodies to take on that challenge".

Over the years, since the days of Bill Russell (1957-69, i.e. 11 National Basketball Association titles in 13 years) John Havlicek-Dave Cowens-JoJo White (titles in 1974 and 1976) and Larry Bird (titles in 1981-84-86), the Celtics were invariably the title favorites - and they delivered. He knows when to rest his guys and when to get them back on the floor.

The Celtics have advanced despite not having their two best players in All-Stars Irving and Gordon Hayward, while the Cavs are still standing with new faces like George Hill, Jeff Green, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Jose Calderon, Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic on the roster.

Stop me if you've heard me before: LeBron James will be playing against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. He scored the go-ahead basket in the Celtics' 9-3 run over the last 1:27 of their Game 5 win over Philadelphia, and scored 10 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth.

"There's a running coach who works on mechanics", Ainge said. We don't want anybody on our side now. "I'm the youngest out of everybody except those guys", he said. We gotta be mentally locked in and have a mindset to try and do the best we can. "You dream about being able to play in big games in the National Basketball Association".

"I think it has been a little bit overblown this year because of the names that has been out". Cleveland slogged along in a malaise for most of the year, falling to just eight games above.500 on February 6. That mixed with the inexperience of executing in close games against a good team in the later rounds of the playoffs really showed. "I'm sure he'll speak to all of our players individually - we've all played against Cleveland now a bunch, in the postseason, too - the last couple of years". I think both teams will be doing a lot of switching on defense due to their players' versatility. I think there's a lot that everybody knows that makes LeBron so great.

Despite being surrounded by a group of 20-somethings, the 32-year-old "Playoff Al" has helped them all play well beyond their years.

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