Posted on May 16, 2017, by Travis Pulver
The weight is finally over for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Late Monday night, they found out who they have to beat in the Eastern Conference Finals to make it back to the Promise Land (the NBA Finals). Boston finally got its act together enough to finish off the Washington Wizards and earn the right to be Cleveland’s next victim.
As could be expected, no one seems to believe the Celtics have an honest shot at pulling off the upset. Vegas has the odds heavily for the Cavaliers. But Vegas has been wrong before. Underdogs win all the time. Will this be one of them or is Boston destined to be just another rung on the ladder of greatness for the Cavaliers?
If you ask Celtics superstar Isaiah Thomas, his team shouldn’t be counted out.
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“They didn’t give us a chance [against the Wizards],” Thomas said after Boston clinched a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals with a win in Game 7. “They didn’t give us a chance when we were down 2-0 to Chicago. … They don’t ever give us a chance, and we just keep going; we don’t care about what others say.”
He is right, of course. Thomas and the Celtics shouldn’t care what anyone else says about their chances. All that matters is what they think and believe they can do. It certainly doesn’t matter that the odds (-700) have a $100 bet on the Cavaliers to win the series earning just $14.29. Put on the Celtics to win, and you stand to make $500 (+500).
Golden State was heavily favored against the San Antonio Spurs in Game One of the Western Conference Finals, but the Spurs managed to make it a tight win. Any chance the Celtics can pull off anything similar?
It will not be easy, but if certain things can work in Boston’s favor—maybe:
- Isaiah Thomas will have to be at his best. The Celtics need their top scoring threat to be the dangerous player they know he can be. They will need him to shoot better than he did against the Wizards in Game Seven (9-21). Kyrie Irving is not considered a good defender so it wouldn’t be shocking to see Boston try to make him cover Thomas.
- Hack-a-Bron?—the name sounds silly, but it could become a working strategy for the Celtics. LeBron James shot just 67 percent from the free throw line in the regular season and 55 percent during the series with the Indiana Pacers. However, against the Raptors, he shot 83 percent. Should he struggle, don’t be surprised to see the Celtics try the theory out and start hacking.
- Defense, defense, defense!—The concept can’t be preached to the Celtics enough. Cleveland has more uncontested shots than anyone in the postseason—73 more than the next closest team. But when shots are contested, they are making just 40 percent of their shots. That’s the lowest among the four remaining teams.
Boston didn’t exactly fair well against the Cavaliers during the regular season (1-3; losses were by six, six, and 23 points). Should the Celtic bring their A+ game and the Cavaliers don’t, we could have a series on our hands; one that is competitive and fun for every fan to watch. If they don’t—the next best thing fans can probably hope for is that the Cavs and Warriors both sweep their opponents so we can get to some competitive games that matter sooner rather than later.
Game One will be Wednesday night at 8:30 PM ET on TNT.