Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers take on Boston Celtics

When the final buzzer went off Monday night, the Boston Celtics immediately set their sights on the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers as the two prepare to battle to move on to the 2017 NBA Finals.

Coming into the series, Cleveland is favored over Boston. The two teams squared off a total of four times during the regular season with the Cavaliers beating the Celtics three times.

"They didn't give us a chance [against the Wizards]. They didn't give us a chance when we were down 2-0 to Chicago. We got the No. 1 seed, they didn't give us a chance. They don't ever give us a chance, and we just keep going; we don't care about what others say," Isaiah Thomas told the media.

The Cavaliers will have to shake off the rust, as they have not played a competitive game in nine days.

Slowing Down LeBron

Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers prepare for tip off against the Detroit Pistons in game four of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs. |April 23, 2016 - Source: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America|
Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers, April 23, 2016.
Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America

In each round of the playoffs the Celtics have been given the task to slow down the other team’s top scorer. Boston got past All-Star forward Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls in the first round and just eliminated John Wall and Bradley Beal in the second. In this seven-game series, Boston will have to slow down LeBron James.

In the four regular season games against the Celtics, James averaged 29 points, nine assists, nine rebounds in 40 minutes per game.

“It’s going to be hard, but I think it’s going to take a team effort,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley added. “He’s a good player. We just have to do a great job of understanding the scouting report, what we need to do against him, and try to make everything hard for him.”

James is not the only player the that Boston will have to worry about as the Cavaliers have the trio of James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. Irving would be the second scoring option averaging 25 points per game while Love would maintain the boards averaging 13 rebounds per game.  

Celtics' X-Factors

Thomas would be the biggest x-factor in Game 1, as he averaged 29 points against Cleveland during the regular season.

Kelly Olynyk #41 of the Boston Celtics drives around Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers  (April 20, 2015 - Source: Jason Miller/Getty Images North America) 
Kelly Olynyk #41 of the Boston Celtics drives around Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers, 
April 20, 2015. Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images North America

Kelly Olynyk is another player to watch for Boston. Olynyk scored 26 points off the bench in Game 7 against the Wizards, outscoring John Wall 14-0 in the fourth quarter. The Celtics hope that the energy that Olynyk brought in the last series carries over to the next one. Something to watch is the Olynyk-Love matchup as Olynyk dislocated Love’s shoulder two years ago.

Jae Crowder #99 of the Boston Celtics drives against LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers |Dec. 14, 2015 - Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America|
Jae Crowder #99 of the Boston Celtics drives against LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dec. 14, 2015.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America

Jae Crowder will be given the task of guarding and trying to slow down James. Crowder size and frame will be the best equipped to guard LeBron. Though a difficult task, there were times that Crowder got the better of LeBron. Crowder will also look to get open in the paint as done the last two rounds of the playoffs.

Game 1 Predictions 

The Celtics know that they must win Game 1. If they don’t, the momentum immediately swings to the Cavaliers.

The rust will affect the Cavaliers as this will be their first game in nine days. The Celtics will try to take advantage of this and walk away with a hard-fought Game 1 victory.