LeBron James chasing down the jolly green giant 5’9 Isiah Thomas during the regular season. The Cavs won the series 3-1, but now all the chips on table as the team defends its first NBA title.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are one series away from being position to defend their first NBA championship and it will begin on the road against the rival Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals on May 17.
LeBron James is one Eastern Conference Finals from playing in his seventh consecutive NBA Finals, but he is not thinking about any of that right now.
The one game at a time ritual is so frequently used by players and coaches that nobody really pays attention to it, except for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That’s precisely how the Cavs have won 16 consecutive games in the first two rounds of the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
That’s precisely how the Cavs swept Indiana and then pulled the broom out on Toronto to get to this point.
And if the Cavs are going to live up to their side of the bargain in the East they will have to beat the team they relinquished their Eastern Conference supremacy to.
Last year it took the Cavs 6 games to hold off the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, but this year they will have to do it on the road.
That in itself removes any self inflicted pressure from the Cavs to open the series, especially after the Celtics had to fight for their lives to survive the Washington Wizards in a grueling 7 game slugfest.
The Cavs won the regular season series 3-1, including an epic beat down at the Garden to reclaim first place in the East.
James is averaging a near triple double against the Celtics, 29 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists.
Isiah Thomas has been equally spectacular for the Celtics tallying 29 points, 6 assist and 3 rebounds.
Kyrie Irving has been terrific as well with totals of 25 points, 6 assist and 3 rebounds.
However, if the Cavs are going to make short work of the Celtics they will have to get outstanding play from Kevin Love and JR Smith.
Smith is the key, because he figures to draw the assignment of guarding Thomas, who while at just 5’9 has been as dominant as in player in the league this season.
Do the Cavs double Thomas? Like they did DeMar DeRozan in the semis to much success.
Everybody keeps raving about what a great coach Brad Stevens is, although he’s has yet to win a championship in college or the pros.
In his first full season with the Cavs, Tyron Lue is arguably among the best coaches in the NBA. His adjustments he’s made defensively in the postseason are short of remarkable.
His use of his bench and identifying what strengths of the opposing team he needs to eliminate have been spot on.
The manner in which he has prepared the Cavs in between series, no scrimmaging, but maintaining focus is something only the greatest of coaches can do.
Finally, Lue is much more focused this year. Having already called this the most difficult team to coach, particularly with all of the transitions that has occurred late in the season.