Wicked good: LeBron undaunted by Boston, Celtics' mystique

Isaiah Thomas

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The loss of Irving has been noticeable at times, and the Cavs almost didn't make it out of the first round against the Indiana Pacers. Yes that means pulling Cleveland's best defender into the play, but it also makes LeBron work on defense, where mostly the Cavs try to hide him and let him rest until key moments of the game.

Embiid went on to face up to the media after the game and spoke with due respect and sportsmanship about the Celtics' impressive series win without stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. He was officially shut down in April with a knee injury.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio - LeBron James will open his eighth straight Eastern Conference finals Sunday with banners hanging above him at TD Garden honoring four Boston Celtics legends who are the only players to appear in more consecutive NBA Finals than the Cleveland Cavaliers star.

Cleveland won two of the three regular-season meetings, though Irving was still active the last time these teams met. Tatum, Horford, Brown and Morris joined Irving in the starting five in their most recent matchup back on February 11. You add them, look at all that history.

"There's been a lot that's happened throughout the season with us and for them", Cavs forward/center Kevin Love said Thursday. I think both teams will be doing a lot of switching on defense due to their players' versatility.

It looked unlikely both teams would make it to this point during the regular season. Meanwhile, the Celtics have yet to lose a home playoff game this year. Thomas, damaged goods with a mangled hip, never fit in the lineup or meshed in the Cavs' turmoil-filled locker room.

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Since Celtics coach Brad Stevens' first playoff team was swept by Cleveland in the first round in 2015, the list is deep of defenders assigned to James: Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace, Jaylen Brown and Horford. Because they're on TV all the time, we're watching them every night, just like everybody else is.

So is another Boston-Cleveland final. If he is going to take plays off, the Celtics need to attack him and make him pay for his lethargic play. The series that everyone wanted and expected during a convoluted offseason has come to fruition. "But just with me, Al (Horford), Terry, Jaylen, we've been here from that team from a year ago, just kind of letting guys know it's not going to be easy". In typical LeBron fashion, he completely defied the naysayers by playing just as well this series as the last.

In three of the five games played in the series, Simmons shot greater than 50 percent from the field.

Hayward is on the Celtics' playoff roster and Boston is winning. Altman didn't stop there, dealing Crowder and Derrick Rose to Utah for Rodney Hood, sending Dwyane Wade back to Miami and acquiring point guard George Hill from Sacramento.

Space the floor, create offense, and knock down your shots- if Jeff Green can do all three of these things and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers perform up to par, this series might be over within the first few games. (The Celtics were 1-point favorites; they won 114-112.) A bettor who placed a $100 bet on the Celtics to win the series before it started would have won $325, given that the Celtics were +325 underdogs to win the series. He has more postseason points against Boston than anyone has scored against a single opponent in the playoffs in National Basketball Association history. Horford has been strong all postseason, Rozier has stepped up in Kyrie Irving's absence, and the youngsters, Tatum and Brown, have been on top of their games. LeBron James is still the best player in the series, and he might be better than he's ever been. "He's obviously a special talent".

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