After LeBron’s ridiculous game-winner in Saturday’s Game 3 vs. the Raptors, many were already jumping to the conclusion that the Cavaliers will be in the NBA Finals again. I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. The Boston Celtics are for real, even without Kyrie Irving.
Before I get into why the Celtics have a chance to beat LeBron James and the Cavaliers, let’s take a moment to realize how disappointing it is that Kyrie Irving won’t be able to face his former team with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line.
Ok, so now that we’re done with that moment of thought, let’s get to it. I picked the Milwaukee Bucks to defeat the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. This is probably one of the dumbest picks I’ve ever made in my life, and I admit how terribly wrong I was. That pick was made before I saw how good Terry Rozier could be when given the starting role.
If the Celtics had Kyrie Irving, so many people would be picking the Celtics to win next series vs. the Cavaliers. You have to realize that Scary Terry is playing close to Kyrie Irving’s level. With the way Rozier is playing in the playoffs (19 points per game, 6.5 assists per game, 5.2 rebounds per game), I cannot currently say there’s much of a drop-off going from Kyrie to Terry.
In addition to Scary Terry playing out of his mind, Jayson Tatum has emerged as a force to be reckoned with and a future star. Tatum is
averaging 18.1 points per game this postseason after averaging 13.9 points per game in the regular season. Furthermore, almost every single Celtic player has joined Tatum in stepping up their games tremendously for the postseason. Al Horford is averaging 17.9 points per game in the playoffs after averaging only 12.9 during the regular season. Moreover, Jaylen Brown is averaging 17.1 points per game in the playoffs, also more than the regular season.
Without Kyrie Irving, there’s no clear number one scoring option for the Celtics. This is something that will help the Celtics against the Cavaliers. Look at how the Pacers played against Cleveland. They played great team basketball and took them to seven games. I understand that the Pacers did have a first scoring option in Victor Oladipo, but even in his worst shooting performances, the Pacers kept the game close and competitive. Team basketball will beat the Cavaliers, and that’s something that the Celtics do even better than the Pacers. Combine this with great team defense and a pest to annoy LeBron James (Marcus Smart), and you’ve got a real chance at winning a best-of-seven series vs. the Cavaliers.
In addition to all this player talk, take a look at who’s sitting on the sidelines for the Celtics: Brad Stevens. Stevens is the best basketball coach in the world. I’m ready to confidently say that after he made Brett Brown look absolutely ridiculous in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals. I can guarantee you that if there’s a tie game with six seconds left, Brad Stevens will not let his team allow LeBron James to dribble full court, barely contested for a good look at the win (I’m looking at you Dwayne Casey). That stuff just won’t happen in the Eastern Conference Finals. Moreover, I can guarantee that Brad Stevens won’t be leaving his best players on the bench in crunch time of a must-win game (I’m looking at you again Dwayne Casey).
As good as LeBron James is, I am telling everyone that the Celtics will make this a long series. The Celtics aren’t a pushover like the Raptors. The Celtics will not choke and crumple like the Raptors. This will be a great series, and I love the Celtics chances. I don’t think the Cavaliers are that good. Basketball is a team sport, and no matter how good LeBron James is, this one-man-show stuff can’t last forever. LeBron will need more help from his teammates than ever if he wants beating the Celtics to be possible.