Will LeBron James and the Cavaliers get an easy road to the NBA Finals? Or will the Celtics make things too difficult for them to handle?
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The Cleveland Cavaliers and All-World F LeBron James begin their pursuit of the 2014-15 NBA Championship by opening up their first game in the First Round of the NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics.
The Cavaliers began their season with a series of high-impact moves from top to bottom. The team pulled off an epic coup by getting former star LeBron James – fresh off four straight NBA Finals appearances with the Miami Heat – to return to the team he left. Additionally, the team hired highly-touted basketball coach David Blatt from the Bronze medal winning Russian Olympic team and traded No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves for All-Star F/C Kevin Love. But the Cavaliers did not morph into the Big Three in Miami overnight.
After a rough start to the season that included a several week hiatus for the Cavs’ four-time NBA MVP and two-time NBA Champion, the Cavaliers finished the season strong to the tune of a 35-15 record since January and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. While the combination of the re-acquired James from the Miami Heat along with Kevin Love and All-Star G Kyrie Irving did not produce the kind of dominating performances that LeBron was used to putting up on a weekly basis when he played with the Miami Heat for four seasons, Irving finished with career highs in FG%, three-point percentage, free throw percentage and minutes played along with a career high in points.
Love struggled in his first year in Cleveland, recording just 16.4 points/game – his lowest since the 2009-10 season – and averaged fewer than 10 rebounds per game for the first time since he was a rookie. James’ drop off in production was considerable – among the lowest numbers for him in all categories since his first few years in Cleveland from 2004 to 2006. Nonetheless, the whole became greater than the sum of its parts in the final half of the season, allowing the Cavaliers to once again return to the top of the food chain in the Eastern Conference
As for the Celtics, it was an extremely difficult start to the season that initially threatened to have them in the bottom half of the league. From November through January the team had losing records in each of the three months and finished with a record of 15-29. But after the All-Star break, the light switch appeared to simply turn on in Boston as the team rolled off a 20-11 record in the leg of the season.
The Celtics were one of the hottest teams in April, stringing together six consecutive wins to finish the season and included back-to-back wins over the Cavaliers – a 99-90 road win and a dominating 117-78 home win.
Prediction for Game 1: Boston Celtics – Though the Cavaliers are expected to thoroughly dominate this series – and likely will – in this first game it seems like they are poised for a slow start in front of the home crowd. Look for Celtics stars Isaiah Thomas and Tyler Zeller to come out strong and possibly put up a double-double apiece.