Cavaliers win series, 4-0
Brad Stevens’ scrappy Boston Celtics were one of toughest first-round outs in a while, despite possessing far less talent, on paper, than LeBron James and the Cavs. They displayed aggression on defense, did not back down from James or Kyrie Irving and a few young players (Marcus Smart, Jared Sullinger, Isaiah Thomas) held their own in the first playoff action for each of them.
When it was all said and done, the difference here was simple: Boston did not have a superstar who could calm the storm when LeBron, Kyrie and co. unleashed the fury on the C’s down the stretch of close games. It was big for Kyrie to make clutch plays in this series, especially against a young, yet disciplined, defensive backcourt in Smart and Avery Bradley. Whenever Boston seemed to make a run, he came back on the other end and broke down the D for either an ISO jumper or nifty drive to the cup.
Aside from Irving, LeBron was his usual self (avg. 27 ppg, 6.5 apg, & 9 rpg), Timofey Mozgov had some nice moments on the interior and Tristan Thompson was a terror on the glass.
Sadly though, the main storyline for Cleveland is the status of J.R. Smith and Kevin Love heading into Round 2. Smith got involved with Boston’s Jae Crowder (popped him in the mouth “going for” a rebound) in the second half of Game 4, so he will likely get suspended for Game 1 versus either Chicago or Milwaukee.
Love, on the other hand, is seeking a second opinion after dislocating his left shoulder while battling for a loose ball with Kelly Olynyk. Early indications are he could miss a minimum of two weeks. If that’s the case, Cleveland’s chances to advance to the Conference Finals take a tremendous hit.
-After Boston captured an early lead in Game 2, Irving (26 points, 6 dimes) and James (30 points, 9 boards) picked up the slack and got the job done. Back breaking triples, and-1s and swing passes to open teammates helped Cleveland gather enough momentum to finish the Celtics in a timely fashion.
-The Cavs will await the verdict of Smith’s impending suspension and Love’s injury. If either one is out for an extended period of time, it will be tough sledding to return to the ECF.
-Making the playoffs was a HUGE win for Stevens and the Celtics. Decisions will have to be made on free agents Crowder, Luigi Datome, Brandon Bass & Jonas Jerebko but you figure at least a couple of them will return in 2016.
With great flexibility (5 first round picks in the next 2 drafts), they have an outside shot to deal for a star in the offseason, similar to the Houston Rockets a couple of years ago when they acquired James Harden.