Celtics-Cavs: Top Five Questions on Opening Night
No. 1. Will the Shaquille O'Neal Experiment Work?
After they dropped the ball against the Orlando Magic last year in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Shaquille O'Neal this summer in an attempt to make another serious run at a championship.
LeBron James and the Cavs will host an improved Boston Celtics team that is hungry to get back to the NBA Finals after a disappointing season that saw Kevin Garnett go down with a season-ending injury.
If you are wondering if the "Big Witness Experiment" is going to work, you will find out tonight.
The C's have one of the best front lines in the league with the addition of Rasheed Wallace, who will give them another consistent threat in the low and high post. This also means that the 2008 NBA Champs will be able to throw big bodies at Shaq, who has slowed a bit but can still give you 17 points and 10 boards on any given night.
No. 2. Which Kevin Garnett Will We See?
The absence of Kevin Garnett last year cost the Celtics home court advantage, which proved to be costly in the second round of the playoffs against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. Before his season ending injury, Garnett was averaging close to 16 points and eight rebounds.
After the injury, Garnett was more mediocre—averaging around 10 points, while becoming a non-factor on the boards. If KG has fully recovered from offseason surgery and remains healthy throughout the season, Boston will no doubt be the team to beat.
We will see tonight in Cleveland if the real KG is truly back.
No. 3. Will the Additions of Powe, Moon, Parker Put the Cavs over the Hump?
The lack of athleticism that the Cavs' frontcourt displayed last year is one of the main reasons they were sitting home watching the NBA Finals.
Anderson Varejao, Joe Smith, Ben Wallace, and Darnell Jackson only combined to average 13.9 points and 13.8 boards during the playoffs.
Anthony Parker gives the Cavs an athletic player that can play both shooting guard and small forward, something that they desperately needed since they failed to sign Trevor Ariza.
Leon Powe will give the Cavs a much needed hard-nosed defender in the low post, who can also clean up around the boards.
Jamario Moon gives the Cavs versatility because he can play inside and out. He also is a good outside shooter who can play tough defense and help control the boards.
All of these additions look good on paper, but we should find out the answer tonight because a tough Celtics team will challenge them on both ends.
No. 4. Will Rajon Rondo Continue His Stellar Play?
There is no doubt that the best player for the Celtics last year in the playoffs was Rajon Rondo. He was more than a point guard last year for the C's—he was "the team."
Rondo averaged nearly a triple double racking up 16.9 points, 9.8 assists, and 9.7 rebounds, while leading the Celtics to within one game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Rondo only put up 7.5 points, 8.8. assists, and 3.8 boards last year in four games versus Cleveland.
If the fourth year point guard from Kentucky continues to be a force like he was in the playoffs, this will spell trouble for the Cavs and the rest of the league.
No. 5. Can the Celtics Win in Cleveland?
The Celtics have lost five straight games in Cleveland, which is why tonight's game is more important than many people realize. A win tonight will show Doc Rivers and the Celtics that they can beat King James in Cleveland, even with the addition of Shaq.
A "W" will give them early confidence that the Rasheed Wallace signing was a success, and will help set the tone for the rest season. If LeBron and Shaq defeat the Celtics it may rattle a Boston squad that is already facing issues with an injured Glen Davis.
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