Against the Bulls and Wizards, the Celtics relied on guard defenders like Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Terry Rozier to slow down Jimmy Butler, John Wall, and Bradley Beal. LeBron James is a whole different animal. What's your confidence level that Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, and some Smart can contain LeBron?
Jeff Clark: I think we're well past the "contain LeBron" stage at this point. The guy is a cyborg who's going to get his points and the best you can do is make him work for them and hope he gets tired or sloppy at the end of the game. Jae is a good physical defender and Jaylen has tons of athleticism and no fear. They'll do their best and that's all you can ask.
Keith Smith: No chance the Celtics can contain LeBron James, but that is OK. No one can. The best they can do is make him work for whatever he gets. Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart are likely to get the call most often to defend him. Maybe Jonas Jerebko when James plays PF and maybe some Gerald Green. Boston will also switch just about everything. The idea is to make him work and focus on taking away the other guys as best you can.
Lachlan Marr: There’s no cure-all for LeBron, the only way the Celtics can hope to defeat King James is to play at their best possible level and hope that LeBron’s play is uncharacteristically sub-par. Jae Crowder’s been quiet during the post-season and Jaylen Brown has had very little run. Maybe this is the series they’ve been waiting for to show the world what they can do, but really I’m not hoping any one player can stop LeBron because they probably can’t. I’m hoping the whole team steps up because that’s what it will take to give James and the Cavaliers a real challenge.
Sean Penney: You can't stop LeBron, you can only hope to contain him. The Celtics will throw multiple looks at him with a mixture of Crowder, Brown and Smart to try to keep him off balance but LeBron is still going to get his. The key is to avoid letting Cleveland's other stars go off too. Let Bradley and Horford try to shut down Irving/Love and put it on LeBron to carry the team by himself.
Alex Kungu: I think the way to look at slowing down Lebron isn’t about what guys can do one-on-one against him, but by how much we can contain the supporting cast. Lebron is going to get his numbers, but can you contain the boards and limit extra possessions? Can you force Irving into inefficient looks? Can you stay on the hip of shooters like Smith and Korver? If the Celtics are able to do those things, then whether you win or not will turn into how well LeBron James can shoot it.
Bill Sy: This year, LeBron averaged nearly a triple double against the Celtics with 29.3-9.5-9.8 on 54.2% shooting. He’s a man possessed when he plays in the Garden and I agree with everybody else: it’s not a matter of jumping in front of the speeding train. Boston has to limit his damage as a playmaker. The Celtics have played five more games than the Cavaliers in these playoffs and the schedule doesn’t get any easier with the Eastern Conference Finals compacted into a every other day schedule. However, that could play into Boston’s favor. If they can catch their breath after a six-game series with the Bulls and the seven-game war with Washington, they could hope to wear down the 32-year-old James who averaged over 42 minutes a game this season.
Jared Weiss: The Celtics’ chances in this series come down to their switching on James ballscreens. They have to switch with high pressure, preventing James from turning the corner and wreaking havoc in the paint on a regular basis. They have the option to send Crowder two under on screens, daring LeBron to pull up. When he starts hitting those shots, which he will, the switchapalooza will continue. Boston is as equipped to do it as well as anyone with Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford out there, but nobody has been able to pull this off over the course of a series enough to beat LeBron.