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NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics face off to determine the winner of the Eastern Conference

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Cavaliers (2) at Celtics (1)
7:30 CST
TNT

The level of which LeBron James is playing in 2017 Playoffs, at 32 years old, is reigniting the debate of who exactly is the best player of all time. The point being, if LeBron and the Cavs are able to eventually able to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the Cavs-Warriors III title match, after the Warriors have Kevin Durant, then the G.O.A.T. might need to change.

LeBron’s numbers so far these playoffs are:

  • 34.4 points per game
  • 9.0 rebounds per game
  • 7.1 assists per game
  • 2.1 steals per game
  • 1.5 blocks per game
  • 55.7 shooting from the floor
  • 46.8 percent shooting from three
  • .663 trueshooting percentage!

If he keeps up this tremendous run throughout the playoffs, he will shatter many of his own records. Although I looked up some historical comparisons, and the lists seem to just be full of LeBron.

One good filter to see just how good LeBron has been this playoff series is by looking at players who have scored more than 30 points a game, had more than 5 assists per game, and 5 rebounds per game, all with a trueshooting percentage over .60.

The list is four players long. LeBron is 2008-2009, Michael Jordan in 1988-1989, LeBron in this year’s playoffs, and Dwyane Wade in 2009-2019.

Also, Jesus Christ was 2008-2009 LeBron just a one-man wrecking ball. In 2008-2009 playoffs, he had BPM of 18.2 and a WS/48 of .399 while scoring 35.3 points per game and having a trueshooting percentage of .618. That is insane.

However, before we can even get to that point, there is a slight roadblock in the way of the Boston Celtics, who come into this series narrowly dispatching the Washington Wizards in seven games. That is a drastic difference when compared to the Cavs, who have yet to lose a playoff game and currently are sporting a net rating of 11.0 in the playoffs.

In the regular season, the teams played each other four times, with the Cavs winning three of these games by an average of 12.33 points, which is buoyed by an 114-91 blowout that came at the end of the season. The lone victory for the Celtics was when Kevin Love was hurt.

Now, the Cavs are healthy and have had a full 10 days to rest up for this matchup, having swept the Raptors on May 7th.

The Celtics, for their part, have been able to survive on a steady diet of high pick-and-rolls with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford. This was the same type of gameplan that gave us the “Kelly Olynyk” game. Boston’s weird mish-mash roster of role players allows them to amalgamate into whatever Head Coach Brad Stevens has cooked up to defeat their opponents.

The problem for the Celtics, is that the Cavs have a pretty cut and dried roster that the Celtics aren’t really able to adapt to. Tristan Thompson will have an easier time running around on the pick-and-rolls, much more so than Marcin Gortat or Brook Lopez did. That right there presents a major issue for the Celtics on offense. Their smaller guards will also have a tough time against the bigger 2-guards that the Cavs have. It’s hard to imagine that the Celtics will be able to get away with having Avery Bradley, Thomas, and Marcus Smart all out on the floor at the same time.

Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer also nice job breaking down the Celtics upcoming issues on defense, which you check out here, as the smaller guards can’t play up a position due to LeBron eating them alive, nor can their bigger wings keep up with LeBron’s foot speed. That doesn’t even get into the fact that the Cavs will look to abuse Isaiah with Kyrie Irving.

It’s hard to imagine the Celtics being competitive in this series. The Cavs have certainly flipped the switch in the playoffs and the Celtics have struggled against lesser competition.

But what to the Celtics (other than the actual players) care if they get swept? They pretty much have gotten to the point that they were aiming for, losing to LeBron in the Conference Finals. The Celtics refused to cash in on their treasure trove of assets in order to compete this year and as a result just won the lottery and will likely be drafting Markelle Fultz.

So what do you get with a team that is, essentially, just happy to be here vs one of the best players of all time getting ready for one of the most important stretches of games of his life?

Probably a sweep.