Let’s go on a trip down memory lane, shall we?
February 11, three days after the trade deadline, Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics initiated battle with the brand new Cavaliers. Boston was sitting with a pretty 40-18 record while the Cavs were struggling at 33-22.
The Cavaliers would go onto devastate Irving and the C’s on their home court with a 121-99 victory.
It goes without saying that much has changed for both squads in this unlikely conference final rematch. However, the change is rather detrimental to Boston, while beneficial to Cleveland.
Say what you want about Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, but this series is going to be incredibly difficult for the Celtics without their two superstars, Irving and Gordon Hayward. While Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum have all had phenomenal postseasons, it’s unlikely that they will be able to contain the tandem of James and Love.
Young players struggle in bright lights when games matter most. We witnessed that last round with 76er forward Ben Simmons. Brown, Rozier and Tatum will be facing a veteran battle-tested Cavalier defense that has proven to become more dynamic as the playoffs progress. If these young men are contained, Boston is going to be defeated.
Furthermore, Horford has historically struggled against James, Love and the Cavs. He is 1-15 in playoff games versus James.
Stevens is a fantastic coach, but this is the series where the Celtics will deeply miss Irving.
Cavs Keys to Victory
Contain the young guys. Last season, the Cavaliers clobbered Boston but that was without Rozier and Tatum as starters. Contain those young guys and you’re in for a good day.
Get Kevin involved. Love has a history of matching up extremely well against Al Horford. Expect that Cavaliers to get Love touches on the inside and the outside early on.
Look, Boston is a great young team with plenty of emerging superstars and an extraordinary coach. However, without Hayward and Irving, the Celtics do not have the power to stop LeBron James and the new Cavs.