With the Eastern Conference Semifinals less than a week away, the question many fans are asking is who would the Cleveland Cavaliers want to see in the next round? Do they want a rematch of last year’s conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks, or a rematch of last year’s first round series versus the Boston Celtics? While both will be tough opponents, here are reasons for and against rooting for the Celtics to advance.
The Celtics have been a pleasant surprise for the league this season. Just a year ago, many thought the Celtics were destined for the lottery. However, they sparked a critical six game winning streak at the end of the season, to sneak their way into the playoffs as the 7th seed. Expectations were a little higher this year after overachieving last year, but not many predicted they would coast into the 5th seed with 48 wins. This will be the last year the Celtics will surprise the league. They are loaded with cap room, and are willing to spend that money. Furthermore, they own the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected first rounder, that has the third best chance of landing the top overall pick. Here are the top reasons the Cavs will be rooting for the Celtics to pull of a series win over the Hawks.
Reason 1: The Celtics’ best player is 5’9”
Isaiah Thomas gets all the props in the world for being not only an impact player but also an All-Star in a league full of giants. However, the truth is, your team will not make it very far when your best player is 5’9”. Thomas could have easily won the Most Improved Player of the Year award after raising his scoring average from 16.4 points per game a year ago to 22.2 this year, and dishing out 6.2 assists per game compared to 4.2 last year. He went from starting only one game between playing for the Phoenix Suns and the Celtics, to starting 79 this season.
Thomas can score with the best of them ranking 7th in post-season scoring and 11th during the regular season. However, for as good as he is on the offensive end, he struggles on the defensive side. A lot of that has to do with his height being undersized on a nightly basis. He is a scrappy player who won’t back down since he is used to being undersized his whole career. However, if enough offensive weapons are on the floor at once, he can be exposed.
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Reason 2: Isaiah Thomas is battling a sprained ankle
Isaiah Thomas is not only the best player on the team, but the best offensive player as well. During the fourth quarter in Game 5 of their first round series, Thomas suffered a mild left ankle sprain and did not return. He is expected to play in Game 6, but the fact of the matter is any sprained ankle is tough to play on and can easily be aggravated. For a player who relies on his speed and quick first step, playing on a bad ankle can slow him down, and in turn can affect his scoring.
This will have an ongoing effect on the Celtics as a whole, as they were 5.6 points better with him on the court during the regular season. They obviously rely on his offense majority of the time and if Thomas seems to suffer from any lingering effects of that ankle injury, it can greatly affect the Celtics as a whole.
Click “Next” to see the third reason why the Cavs should root for the Celtics to win!
Reason 3: The Celtics struggle shooting threes
The Cavs ranked seventh in the league with a 36.2% mark from long distance during the regular season. That number has only increased in the postseason. They rank 3rd out of the 15 teams at 41.3% during the playoffs. The easiest way to get big leads in the NBA is to win the battle behind the arc by a large margin. A team like the Celtics that struggle from three could be ran out of the gym if the Cavs get hot. The Celtics ranked 28th in the league in three-point percentage at 33.5%, and they have plummeted to 28.7% in the postseason, the 3rd worst amongst qualifiers.
The only downfall is the Celtics were the fourth stingiest team during the regular season when it came to opponent three-point percentage at 33.6%, and have been even stingier in the postseason with a 30% mark. The Celtics’ in-your-face defense has turned the Hawks into shooting below the league average from three. The easy money is the Cavs won’t continue to shoot at a blistering pace, but due to the fact that they are a better three-point shooting team than the Hawks, that number won’t be too low.
Click “Next” to see the first reason why the Cavs should NOT root for the Celtics to win!
While the Cavs have many more reasons in which they should be rooting for the Celtics to win their series, those were the main factors that are of advantage to them. However, this team will not just lay down and let the Cavs run over them in the series. Here are reasons the Cavs may want to hope for the Hawks in the next round
Reason 1: These teams have bad blood
Everyone remembers the first round during the last season’s playoffs and how dirty it became as the series moved along. That is likely to be even more concerning considering where these teams have left off since. The Cavaliers lost Kevin Love for the remainder of the playoffs after dislocating his left shoulder on a rebound play involving Kelly Olynyk.
After that, the game looked more like a boxing match than a basketball game. Kendrick Perkins received a flagrant one foul (which the NBA upgraded to a flagrant two, that would have ejected Perkins), after shoving Jae Crowder to the floor on a screen late in the 2nd quarter. Not even two minutes into the 3rd quarter, J.R. Smith was ejected (and suspended two games in the next series), for a backhand blow to Crowder in the head. When these teams played three times in the regular season, both crowds acted as if it was a postseason game and both teams played with a playoff mentality. The Cavs won two and lost the other by only one point. If the Celtics do advance to the next round, this series can become very dirty very quickly.
Click “Next” to see the second reason why the Cavs should NOT root for the Celtics to win!
Reason 2: The Celtics have some of the best perimeter defenders in the league
It is very easy to hide their small point guard when the Celtics have some of the best perimeter defenders on the court. When looking at their roster, it is not surprising why they have some of the stingiest three-point shooting defense in the league. While he is injured, and his status for the remainder of the postseason is questionable, Avery Bradley might be one of, if not the best, wing defender in the league. For fans that don’t know him, think of Matthew Dellavedova but more annoying for the opposing player. Bradley will almost without a question be matched up against Kyrie Irving and the Celtic guard has been known to take a player out of his game completely with his hounding defense.
It won’t get any easier for the main ball handler when Bradley is out of the game. Second year player Marcus Smart is a clone of Bradley when it comes to defense, but he is way more physical. Smart earned a reputation at Oklahoma State University as a physical defender, but the knock on him is he needs to develop more of an offensive game. With that being said he was still chosen as the sixth overall pick based on his defensive prowess alone. Add in his blazing playoffs three-point percentage at 37.9% (he had a mark of 25.3% in the regular season), and you have a player that is playing with a lot of confidence that can be troublesome for the Cavs. Meanwhile, Jae Crowder is one of the best prototypical 3-and-D guys in the league already, and he is only improving. He is their defender who guards the other team’s best forwards. He would be matched up with LeBron James and would challenge him on every possession. While nowhere near the defender as the other three, Evan Turner is a lengthy guard that can switch between both guard positions and both forward positions with his 6’7” frame. He is currently playing some of his basketball in these playoffs.
Click “Next” to see the third reason why the Cavs should NOT root for the Celtics to win!
Reason 3: Kevin Love struggles mightily against this team
If the Celtics are running out of the opposing locker room, one player that won’t be excited to see them will be Kevin Love. Besides everything that happened during last season’s playoffs and the emotions that will go into this series, he really had three disappointing performances against them in the regular season. Love did have 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting in the very first game against them, but averaged only 13.3 points per game in their three meetings – one of his worst numbers against any team. His low scoring output could be due to the fact he only attempted fewer shots per game.
However, it’s hard to make a case for more shots when his accuracy was only 37.5% from the field and barely over 31% from behind the arc. Not only did he struggle shooting, but he was a non-factor grabbing rebounds (a statement that isn’t seen very often with Love). He grabbed only 5.7 boards per game, which is the second worse against any team during the regular season. If the Cavs want to make this a quick series, they have to get more out of Love.