Can Brad Stevens Lift Boston Over Cleveland:
The Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers last night, 114-112, and are now advancing to their second straight Eastern Conference Finals. Boston has looked like one of the five best teams in the NBA all season long, but it’s remarkable that they’re 8-3 in the playoffs without Kyrie Irving, who was their leading scorer during the regular season. Most people (including myself) expected the 76ers to dispatch the Celtics, but Brad Stevens’ team was well prepared and dominated Philly in nearly all facets of the game. Stevens was able to draw up a game plan that essentially made Ben Simmons a non-factor. Now the Celtics will get another shot at dethroning the Cavaliers.
Lebron James has helped get Cleveland to four straight Eastern Conference Finals, winning each and every one of them. In fact, he’s reached the NBA Finals in seven straight years. But if anyone in this league can take down James, it might just be Stevens. He has shown a knack for putting his players in the best positions to win. And it’s not like this team doesn’t have athletes who will try to make James as uncomfortable as possible. Jaylen Brown is 6’7 and 225 pounds. Jayson Tatum is 6’8 and 205 pounds. While neither can match James’ experience, strength, or talent, they have the makeup to defend him better than most other players. It remains to be seen if they can stop him.
In the Eastern Conference Finals last season, the Cavaliers were far and away the better team. It was over pretty quickly as Cleveland won both road games to start the series. Despite avoiding a sweep with an Avery Bradley buzzer-beater, the Celtics were ousted in Game 5. But the Cavaliers had Irving last season, and obviously, they do not this time around. Cleveland is more vulnerable this year than ever before, but it’s still going to take a village to eliminate James. Stevens should have an idea on how to defend Lebron, while continuing to play through Al Horford on offense. Game 1 is set to start on Sunday afternoon in Boston. Lets see if Stevens can take out The King.
Photo Credit: Celtics Life.