The Boston Celtics take on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. PT.
The defending champions, led by LeBron James, are rightfully heavy favourites after coming off back-to-back sweeps to reassert their dominance in the East.
Boston has a minus-7.2 rebound differential through 13 postseason games - the worst mark among the 16 playoff teams. Love had a career playoff-best 32 points and 12 rebounds, becoming just the second James teammate to get 30 points and 10 rebounds in a playoff game (the other was Dwyane Wade).
It was a typically thorough performance from James, who right now is playing with a singular mix of command and poise and craft. James is making the right play, the ideal read, on seemingly every possession.
"It's not an individual matchup for me, no matter who's in front of me", James said. Though a hard task, there were times that Crowder got the better of LeBron. Cavaliers' coach Tyronn Lue yelling on the sidelines against the Toronto Raptors [Image by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images] "I mean, it's time". "Clearly, defensively, we were deficient last night, especially in the second half". I really thought he hit a great stride offensively, and it's carried over into the playoffs. Kevin (Love) understands that, Kyrie (Irving) understands that, all the guys understand it.
James' comments were directly linked to the fact that the Cavaliers had only played eight games in the span of 40 days. Turned out, there was no chance.More news: Xi ends trade summit with plan to return in 2019
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It was just too much LeBron. "Come back to me after we've won a championship". They don't ever give us a chance and we keep going. After falling behind 0-2 to the Chicago Bulls in the first round, the Celtics ultimately won that series in six games.
I think that the most likely scenario is that Stevens sticks with Johnson in the starting lineup to set a physical tone on the game. They finished the game at 48.1 percent.
James picked apart every defender that the Celtics threw at him in the first half. Cleveland is 5-2-1 against the spread in the postseason, including 3-0-1 ATS on the road.
"I don't think Boston fans need any more pumping up", James said following shootaround ahead of Wednesday's opener. "We definitely didn't shoot the ball as well as we're capable of shooting".
The Cleveland are entering this Eastern Conference Finals series as the clear favorites - having remained unbeaten in the postseason, to this point - while the Boston seem thrilled to embrace their "underdog" label.
The extra time off certainly did something for James during the regular season when he took a few games to get a little R&R. This postseason they have been a flawless 9-0, beginning with sweeps of IN and Toronto. If the Cavs win this series, they'll reach their third consecutive NBA Finals, and fourth overall. In his 14th National Basketball Association season, James is not only playing at the peak of his powers, he is somehow continuing to improve. "The rhythm is something you kind of like see if we still have it", James said, brushing off suggestions that playing in Boston would help sharpen Cleveland's mental approach. Nearly a third (57 of his 192 points) of his scoring in the series was with John Wall as the primary defender, and Wall is a much tougher defender than Cleveland's J.R. Smith or Kyrie Irving. "I think the chemistry would be wonderful".