Posted on May 1, 2018, by Travis Pulver
Prior to the start of the 2017-18 NBA Season, it was widely assumed that the Boston Celtics would likely meet the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. With the pieces, the Celtics added and LeBron James still on the Cavs, it was the logical conclusion. But then Gordon Hayward was hurt during the first game of the season, and Kyrie Irving suffered a late-season injury.
Cleveland realized the makeup of the team wasn’t what it needed to be, so they revamped their roster at the deadline.
With how their regular seasons played out, neither entered the postseason with high expectations. Both were pushed to the edge of elimination in their opening round series. But they survived and moved on to play even better teams in the Conference Semifinals.
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Considering how far each was pushed in their opening round, many expected the Philadelphia 76ers to be able to handle the Celtics. If Indiana could push the Cavaliers to the edge, surely the Toronto Raptors could finish the job—right?
So far, it appears as if neither series is going to play out as expected.
Eastern Conference Semifinals: Toronto Raptors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Toronto gave the Cavaliers all they had in Game One, but LeBron James was still able to will the Cavs to victory in overtime, 113-112, even though he didn’t score in the OT period.
While they didn’t win, the Raptors led for the majority of the game; just not when they needed to most. They proved they could hang with the Cavaliers. So, maybe they could get it done this year. Maybe this team they could take LeBron and Company down.
But then something crazy happened. James had his usual kind of night with 43 points, 14 assists, and eight rebounds. Kevin Love, however, exploded for 31 points and 11 rebounds. This time it was much easier for the Cavs as they won by 18 points, 128-110.
“This morning you could just sense it,” Love said after the game (via ESPN). “He knew what was at stake, he knew us getting another win here was going to be huge for us. He came out, and he played that way from the jump. You could just sense that he was going to have a special night.”
With the way both teams are playing two games into the series, it is hard to imagine the Cavaliers failing to lock up a spot in the Conference Finals for the fourth year in a row.
The Series moves to Cleveland for Game Three on Saturday.
Eastern Conference Semifinals: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics
After losing Kyrie Irving for the remainder of the season, the world expected the Boston Celtics to struggle in the postseason. What they got was a quality lineup featuring a rejuvenated Al Horford and quality performances by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and especially Terry Rozier.
With how long it took to get by the Milwaukee Bucks in their opening round, hopes were not high for the Celtics against the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers. Here was a team that ended the regular season on a 16-game winning streak. No one in the NBA was playing as well as they were.
The Miami Heat did bring the streak to an end, but they didn’t really provide the 76ers with serious competition. While Boston played well enough to get past the Bucks, the 76ers had much more firepower than Milwaukee.
Or so we thought.
While the final in Game One was 117-101, the game was actually much easier than the score would indicate. Fans hoped that the 76ers would put up a better fight in Game Two. After the first quarter, it looked like they might give the Cavs a run for their money, 31-22.
About halfway through the second quarter, the 76ers held a 22-point lead, 48-26 (at the 6:41 mark in the quarter). Surely, fans are going to get the series they expected now — right?
Wrong! The Celtics closed with a 21-5 run closing the gap to five points, 56-51, at the half.
The good times continued to roll for the Celtics in the third quarter. When the fourth started, the Celtics were in front, 79-75. Philadelphia regained the lead about midway through, 93-88. But then an 11-4 run by the Celtics put the ball back in Boston’s court, 99-95, with four minutes to go.
Philly got within three in the final seconds of the game but couldn’t close the deal. Boston went on to win 108-103 and now leads the series 2-0 with the next two games taking place in Boston. Game Three will be Saturday afternoon.
It is easier to see the 76ers possibly pulling out a comeback and making the series interesting. But with how things have gone in this one, the 76ers are simply getting outgunned by the Celtics. This Conference Semifinal will likely end in four, just like the other.