A week ago today, this was happening in the NBA:
- The Cavs were relishing a narrow Game 7 win over the Pacers, thanks heroics from the great LeBron James (45 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists)
- The Raptors were laying in the cut, their Best Team Ever, with home court advantage, waiting for tired LeBron and that pathetic supporting cast
- The Celtics had escaped a hungry Bucks team in seven games, and now had to face the best young team in the NBA, the 76ers, with superstars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid
And now here we are, a week later, with the fraudulent Raptors down 0-3, having no chance in this series since they vomited on themselves in the 4th quarter of Game 1. The Cavs look right again, partially thanks to Toronto coach Dwane Casey fumbling all series like a teenager in the dark with his girlfriend.
Casey can’t find anyone to defend Kevin Love, the former All-Star who averaged a meek 11.4 ppg on 33 percent shooting against Indiana. Love couldn’t properly grip a ball last week because of his thumb injury; now he’s averaging 19.7 ppg and 13.3 ppg. Casey also can’t get his star DeMar DeRozan untracked – 54 points on 55 shots – and despite having the best bench in the league all season, he is suddenly clueless on how to use it.
The Celtics were underdogs against the 76ers, but have won the first three games in the series, pretty shockingly, without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Jaylen Brown has been hurt. Six months ago Terry Rozier was a solid backup point guard; Brad Stevens has transformed him into one of the defining players of the postseason: 19.0 ppg on 42 percent shooting on 3-pointers, 6.5 assists per game and 5.2 rebounds per game along with suffocating defense.
Why shouldn’t we give Boston a great chance against LeBron when Brad Stevens has a week to prepare? The defensive strategy the Pacers employed is what Toronto should have done – LeBron is going to get 40, just don’t let the role players beat you and you’ll always be in the game.
Boston has a variety of players to throw at LeBron – Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart and even Semi Ojeleye – but perhaps more interesting will be what they do with Kevin Love. I don’t care much about regular season meetings, but Love shot 25 percent from the field, 12 percent from three, and averaged just 8.5 ppg in two games vs Boston this season.
And one last point: If JR Smith or Kyle Korver or Jeff Green show up, just how much trouble will Cleveland be in? Kyrie Irving shot 62 percent from the field, 50 percent on 3-pointers, and averaged 25.8 ppg in the five game series vs Boston.