This will be the 7th time that the Boston Celtics have faced off against LeBron James in the playoffs. James holds the edge in those matchups thus far 4-2. He has won the last 4 series including last year’s Eastern Conference Finals matchup. To put it mildly, I’m sick and tired of losing to LeBron James!
Will he do it again, or will this version of the Celtics defy the odds and end his streak? It seems like there have been 3 or 4 different versions of the Celtics that have faced LeBron over the years. Some more well equipped than others and more often than not they’ve been less than full strength.
This was supposed to be the matchup to look forward to when Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward came to town. The prevailing theory (not without cause) is that Boston can’t possibly win this matchup without those 2 stars. But do we know that for sure?
I mean, this team has been written off all season long and they just keep winning. As soon as Kyrie was ruled out for the rest of the season, everything that happened after that was considered gravy. But the gravy kept pouring out. All over the turkey and mashed potatoes and into the green beans and all over the cranberry sauce... There’s just so much gravy!
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are both blue-chip prospects that have simply prospered faster than expected. Terry Rozier III has developed and emerged after years of seasoning. Al Horford is the superstar role player we’ve been defending to the talk show hosts all along.
On the flipside, the LeBron led Cavaliers have looked vulnerable all season long, culminating in a difficult first round matchup with the Pacers. They were avert-the-eyes bad on defense all year long and the James Gang supporting cast looked like they were locked up with ball and chain (with the demeanor to match). Then somehow the proverbial switch was flipped and all must bow down to the King once again.
Except that this Celtics team doesn’t bow down to any throne or back away from any fight. There are no “LeBron Stoppers” in the known universe, but the Celtics have a lot of long, athletic, rangy wings with good defensive chops to throw at James to make life a little more challenging for him.
The first two rounds have actually been a pretty good warmup for this series because they’ve faced Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ben Simmons. Two uber-athletic and skilled “freaks” that share some of the same skills as James. Brad Stevens has focused the team on “stepping into the punch” against those guys daring the supporting cast to beat them. Kevin Love and Kyle Korver are really good when they are on their game, but they can at least be exploited on defense.
(Here comes the “yeah, but”)
With all that said, LeBron James is one of the best that’s ever played the game. What he did to the Raptors was just cruel, but it was a good reminder that the guy still has Mortal Kombat finishing moves.
Still, this is all still just savory and succulent gravy in the big picture. If we win, we get to be the ones that knocked out the King, just like the old days. If we lose, well, then this has all been one long prelude to the main story that will be written in the years to come.