Wednesday the Cleveland Cavaliers traveled to Boston to take Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals series against the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics beefed up their offensive and defensive onslaught in the offseason with the addition of Al-Horford in the front, Gerald Green and rookie Jalen Brown in the back.
This strategy worked, because the Celtics performed well in the regular season, coming into the offseason as the top seed (53-29) ahead of the Cavaliers who were second with 51-31.
Unlike Cleveland who swept their first and second-round matchups (Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors were both defeated 4-0 by the Cavaliers), the Celtics went six games against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round and had a seven-game series against the Washington Wizards in the second round.
Now enter the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are probably in the best form they have been in since the return of LeBron James in 2014, and the Boston Celtics have a huge challenge on their hands.
Kyrie Irving and JR Smith are holding down the Cavs backcourt well, while the team’s floor general LeBron James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson have the frontcourt covered.
In addition, Cleveland have some impressive talent coming off the bench like Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, backup point guard Deron Williams and sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
If Game 1 is to be used as a yardstick for how the series will go, the Cavs could be potentially looking at sealing another sweep. Cleveland won the game 117-104, James had 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Kevin Love ended the night with a 32-point, 12-rebound double-double.
Boston’s All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas was restricted to 17 points but also dished out 10 assists, while Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder had 21 points each.
The Cavaliers look to have a clear upper hand, but the Celtics are strong enough to pull off a win or two in the series and will not let their opponents have it easy, especially at the TD Garden.
In terms of matchups, the Cavaliers will have a challenge in the backcourt, as Thomas and Bradley are worthy opponents for Irving and Smith and could take them on play for play.
The biggest challenge for the Celtics will be in the frontcourt where they must face James, arguably the best player in the league at the moment who is backed by power forward Love and Thompson in the center position.
If Cleveland stay healthy, dethroning them will be a hefty challenge for Boston. Even after coming into the postseason on the back of four losses, they are playing impressive basketball and looking for back-to-back championships.
The Celtics will meet the Cavaliers back at the garden for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday at 02:30 CAT.
By Kaunda Chama
@therealkaunda on Twitter