Season Series: Tied 2-2
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For the people out there who thought the Cleveland Cavaliers would be challenged by the Chicago Bulls... I pity you about as much as I did Joakim Noah when he came out and said the Cleveland city life sucked. Well, the Bulls did take more games then I expected they would, but the Cavaliers proved exactly why they above the top of the league... Lebron James... and I don't care if he isn't 100%.
In game one, the Cavs were killing and he sat back and enjoyed an easy 24-point outing to propel Cleveland past Chicago 96-83. Game two wasn't much different as the Cavs home crowd watched Lebron lead the team in points with fourty, rebounds with eight and assists with eight. The Bulls stole game three but were lucky as they finished off the fourth quarter with horrific foul shooting as Lebron scored 13 and brought the Cavs back in the game.
At 108-106 in favour for the Bulls, Anthony Parker missed a three that would had won the game at the buzzer. Not only did I expect the Cavs to sweep the series, but Lebron to dominate and it was evident in game four as he put up a triple double (37 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) muscling his way through Chicago's defence the entire night. When I stated that the top four teams in the Eastern Conference (Cavs, Magic, Hawks, Celtics) were head and shoulders above the rest of the East, some of you agreed but I took a lot of flack for it because of how poor Atlanta has played but it did prove that teams like Miami and Charlotte just don't have what it takes..
The Cavs do have what it takes... a superstar surrounded by consistent teammates who night-in-night-out provide Lebron with the extra punch needed. Even if Lebron leads his team in every category or is right there at the top (rebounds for example), he has been surrounded with a cast of players that Cleveland hopes will keep James a Cavalier long term.
Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison who were averaging an identical 15.8 points per game, have kicked it in more on the stat sheet while the man their teammate and man-child Lebron James put up mid-thirties and makes it look like easy in the process. Two additions that the Cavaliers made this year to get that extra push needed to win the NBA Finals was getting Anthony Parker from the Raptors, who can come in at shooting guard to relieve Lebron or even play the two position with Lebron carrying up the ball up the floor.
Anderson Varejao is an extremely pivotal part of the Cavaliers roster and many closely associated with the club say that after Lebron, he is the second most important player they have. Personally, I disagree... as important as it will be for him to play well deep into the playoffs (I've made it clear that big men who can take over games like Howard, Garnett, Gasol will win a championship), it is just as important for Shaquille O'Neal to give the Cavs the same boost that Anthony Parker has.
Through-out Shaq's career, all he's done is lift the team in which he is playing on to be great and win championships. He took the Magic to a championship back in the 90's when he played there, he and Kobe won a bunch together in Los Angeles and he helped Miami win it all and the only team to get back and win it all since he's left has been Los Angeles (which was last year).
The addition of Shaq is huge and if he can stay healthy and be a presence down low in the paint through-out the Cavaliers playoff run, you may just see Lebron and company in the NBA Finals and if they go deep, it'll certainly help Lebron stay in Cleveland. They'll coast past Boston in my eyes because Boston is too old. The real challenge will come if Orlando moves onto the Eastern Conference Championship and we get to see Man-Child vs Superman.
When I took the Boston Celtics over Miami and said the Heat 'will be lucky to win a game' I pissed off a lot of Heat fans but again, just like I said the top four teams in the East are the best, the Heat were lucky to win a game and it took a record setting performance out of Dwyane Wade. I am sure there will be plenty of die-hard Celtics fans who won't like what I am about to say but simply put, it's the truth.
At 33 years old, the Cavaliers Jamison would be considered the veteran presence on the team (other than Shaq). The Celtics are honestly filled with a bunch of players who are great but back in 2007-2008 when they were two years younger, were much better, and by that I mean good enough to win the championship. This year? No way. Boston's top three of Garnett, Pierce and Allen are just getting too old... at the same time, if they are on their game, they can absolutely win games and even steal a game or two they shouldn't have won.
But when facing a younger team with just as much, if not more talent, the Cavaliers will simply be too much. An 82 game season, and the playoffs can wear and tear on any man's body but when you are young and your body doesn't ache (as much) after games as it would when are ready to hang em up', it's a huge advantage. I absolutely loved the first round match-up of Boston-Miami because I said 'the big man' would be the difference as Wade couldn't do it all himself.
I wasn't only right, but I will be with this series too. The big men of Garnett and Perkins won't have such an easy time facing Shaq and Varejao and it's a lot different opening up a series on the road than it is on your own home-court. I know Boston has a better record on the road (26-15) vs their record at home (24-17) which is huge come post-season Basketball.
The problem for the Celtics is not only do the Cavaliers have the exact same record on the road during the regular season at 26-15 but their home-court record is a outstanding 35-6.
Cleveland winning on the home-court I would like to say is almost guaranteed, but one of those six losses came at the hands of the Celtics as these teams split the season series each winning a game on their home-court and on the road. As much as I think this series won't be won by the Celtics, it absolutely can be but it won't be because of the efforts of Pierce, Garnett and Allen.
If Boston wants to move past Cleveland, the only way they can do it is if Rajon Rondo continues to play double-double type basketball at point guard while being a threat to score himself but as well in essence 'the quarterback' of the Celtics. Averaging in the mid-teens in points and just shy of ten assists per game, Rondo can be the difference maker in this series. You expect the Celtics big three to produce all the time because it's what Boston fans and fans all over the NBA have grown to know and love out of them. But anyone closely associated with Boston would agree that the play of Rondo in this series can absolutely be the difference.
If Cleveland has a fourth star that each night they have to worry about hurting them on the scoreboard, it's going to be tough for the Cavs. Thing is, Lebron is better than any player on the court and in the last two minutes of a game, he can steal the ball from Rondo, go down and dunk it, run back and block a Pierce shot or Garnett dunk, only to go coast-to-coast hitting a trifecta as the clock expires.
Lebron and his younger, more talented and quicker Cavaliers will be too much for Boston to handle, and it will make upper management realize (much like a father with his son), that at some you become a distant second and you just don't want to admit it. The Celtics road will end on their home-court in game six.
TheCoach's Pick: CAVALIERS in SIX