Celtics Blog 2018-

The New Celtics.

On First Blush.

By Tom Mahoney

3. Love Of Game O- The problem is that LeBron is somehow playing better than he was in last year's Playoffs. "I haven't reflected on it," LeBron said. "But I do know that this is my eighth straight conference finals, and I have an opportunity to play for a championship if I'm able to be successful in this conference finals, so I don't take that for granted. You dream about being able to play in big games in the NBA, and even when I got to the NBA that was one of my only goals: to be as great as I can be, to play in big games in the NBA and be remembered, and I think I've done that in my career. Just trying to add onto it while I can." He has been right up there with Larry, Magic, and MJ.

The Celtics have the better team, which is important. "Obviously, you know what I've said about Brad Stevens before and his ability to get the most out of his guys, how great they are out of timeouts, late-clock situations as well, no matter who is on the floor or no matter who has played for them, he can put guys in position to succeed and get the most out of whoever has been in their lineup over the past few years, it's not just this year." LeBron said. "I think it has been a little bit overblown this year because of the names that has been out. Obviously, with Kyrie and Gordon and the injuries with those two big guys, but he has gotten the most out of everybody he has ever put in his position since he's gotten to Boston." The Cavs have the best player in the series.

Which usually is the deciding factor. Unlike last year, where the Cavs had the best player in the World in the finals. But the Warriors had the 2nd and 3rd best players in the World. In no particular order: Bryant and Curry. I'm not sure we can say the Celts will have the 2nd and 3rd best players in the series. But they better! 

Love seems to have squeezed his way into the top three. "What I’ve learned in sports: fortune and momentum can change so fast. I think you saw that, especially after Game Seven [Pacers]. And then the fashion in which we won Game One [Raptors]. We didn’t take our first lead until overtime," Love said. "I think that changed our postseason and put us in a more positive light. Guys started getting more success throughout our entire lineup. Guys started seeing more playoff time than they’d ever seen prior. Now we get a sweep, a few days rest and hopefully a chance to bounce back [to the Warriors]." He has been a friggin' yo-yo in the Playoffs.

He is only averaging 14.7 PPG in the Playoffs, because he has a great game, and then shoots 3 for 13. Then he is the second best player on the court, and then scored 7. But he is also averaging 10 RPG, and he averaged 20.5 PPG against the Raptors. He has been great and then terrible consistently in this year's playoffs. But he really only needs four great games to swing the Series.

When Love is the second best player on the Court the Cavs win. "We came out in Games 5 and 6, got a win here. [I] played great. Then got a win in Toronto to close out the series," Love said. "So, it just goes to show you, people will turn for both good and for bad. Both ways. That’s just the way it is in sports. You just have to live hand by hand. But know what you’re capable of. Because if not, you can go down a rabbit hole." He was the second best player on the Court against the Raptors, and they beat them quick.

4. Love Of Game: Part II- The problem is that Horford has a history of stinking against LeBron and Cleveland. "He’s making shots, he’s playing with a real good pace," Cavs HC Lue said. "Defensively he’s got a few blocked shots, some deflections at the basket. He’s been good for us. We’ve got to continue to keep going to him. Kevin’s been doing a really good job just changing his pace and speeds." Love will drag Horford away from the basket and make the other Celtics rebound. 

The Celtics need Horford to be the veteran winner he was against the 76ers. He wasn't that against the Cavs last year. Not statistically, but they need Horford to be the second best player in the series. He hasn't been that against the Cavs. I doubt he will be able to do it. He was not good in last years' East Champ Series.

In fact, he has sucked against every team that LeBron has played on. When he has played against LeBron in the Playoffs, Horford is a terrifying 1 and 15. Winning only Game Three in last years East Champ Series. He is a mind boggling minus 263-points when on the court in those games against LeBron. He is not going to be the second best player in this Series.

He was the best player in the Series against the Sixers. He led the kids. He made the big shots. He was the best rebounder. He played great D. He dragged the Bigs away from the hoop, and hit the Threes.

You have to bleed green to think that Al can be the 2nd best player on the Court against the Cavs. "If you look down, I’ll take Horford over Kevin Love. The way Tatum’s been playing, Rozier [been playing]. Nobody on Cleveland is playing as well as those guys and they have the advantage pretty much every night at coaching," Celtics HOFer Paul Pierce said. "Ty Lue’s a great coach but Brad Stevens is the best coach in basketball right now. No offense to Popovich, but he’s the best coach in the NBA and that says a lot. Look at what he’s doing with the Celtics. If they end up in the Finals? Come on." They are four great games by Average Al to getting into the Finals.

5. Love Of Game: Part III- So Brown, Tatum, Rozier, and Smart, have to be 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th best players in this Series for the Celtics to win. That is a gigantic order from the four youngest starters in this series. They have to win against everybody not named LeBron most of the time, and win against guys named LeBron some of the time. 

In spot duty on defense, Brown was the best against LeBron in last years Playoffs. "Watching the other two series, there was a little bit of confusion between Toronto and Indiana," Brown said. "You’ve gotta (understand) what you want to do every time down the floor." But can he handle a fulltime role as the LeBron stopper?

I think that is asking a little bit more than he can chew. But if he/they can keep LeBron under 30 PPG the Celtics will win this series. It is going to take some intense team defense, because LeBron is playing as well as he has ever played in the Playoffs. He is on a mission this year to get his forth ring against the Warriors. The only men left standing in his way are the four young Celtics.

It starts with making LeBron work for every basket. "Watching the other two series, there was a little bit of confusion between Toronto and Indiana," Brown said. "You’ve gotta (understand) what you want to do every time down the floor." Brown should lead the team in minutes against LeBron.

Tatum and Horford will get some important minutes. Brad will likely put Smart on him in some spot situations as well. But they will earn their minutes stopping the other guys on defense. You have LeBron and Love, and a bunch of veteran JAGs. They have to make those Vets look like the 10th-plus best players in this series. 

Rozier has to step it up to where he controlled the offense, and scored easily. "We’d rather y’all count us out," Rozier said on Friday. "We don’t want anybody on our side now. We’re doing good and we play better when our back is against the wall." He could/should be in the top five best players in this Series.

Rozier has to be the toughest player on the court not named Smart. "Coach was saying whoever is the tougher team is going to win," Rozier said about Philly. "They definitely punched us in the mouth at the beginning of the game. We just had to bounce back and get things together." He has to be the PG that he was in the first two games against Philly.

Tatum was the leading scorer in the series against the Sixers. "Just be aggressive," Tatum said against Philly. "Especially with JB (Jaylen) out. That’s 20 points sitting on our bench, so we tried to make up for that tonight." He has to get his points in this series as well. 

He is the biggest wildcard in this Series. "Loved it!" Marcus Smart said about Tatum's Series against Philly. "We need more of that from him. He’s gonna have to play like that for the rest of his time, the rest of the series, in order for us to keep going the way we’re going." Those four guys have to out play LeBron and Love for the Celtics to win this Series.

That is a lot of pressure on young kids that historically don't succeed in the Playoffs like these cats are doing. But Brown, Rozier, and Smart all got through some growing pains in last year East Champ Series. They are now, the hopefully not-to-young Vets who have to beat a deep and overly experienced Veteran Team. This is going to be a war.

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