Boston, MA - The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics are set to square off in the Eastern Conference Finals. Here are five things to watch for in Game 1:
1. Road King
LeBron has said it many times. He actually prefers playing on the road during the playoffs. He thrives on the hostile crowds, and loves taking the energy out of the building, as well as his opponents. And of course he has had some epic games at the Garden. It will be interesting to see how long it takes him to start demoralizing the Celtics, one of the better home teams in the NBA (30-11), on their parquet floor. My guess is...about a quarter.
2. Rest Easy
Have the Cavaliers played a game this month? It doesn't feel like it. They'll head into Game 1 fresh off of a 9-day break. Which shouldn't concern anyone. We saw how they responded in the same situation following the Pacers series. That said, the Celtics are coming off an emotional Game 7 win over the Wizards, and while they get no break, they're riding a little momentum. Game 1 of this series may offer their best shot at a win over the Cavs.
3. No Doubting Thomas
Isaiah Thomas may be 5'9, but he's spectacular, and has a 53-point game in these playoffs to prove it. He can kill you from 3-point land, or drive the lane and somehow score among the giants. But he also takes a physical beating. You wonder when that'll catch up with him. The Wizards showed one way to slow him down: blitz him. Put at least two guys on him and force him to get rid of the ball. In case you haven't noticed, the Celtics don't have a plethora of scorers.
4. Kelly's Heroes
That brings me to Kelly Olynyk. Clevelanders are no fan of this guy after he ripped Kevin Love's arm out of his socket two years ago in Round 1, costing the Cavs a legitimate shot at beating the Warriors in the 2015 Finals. And truth be told, until Monday night (and the Game 7 win over the Wizards) Bostonians weren't big fans of him, either. It's doubtful Olynyk's gonna throw down 26 points again. Certainly not with Love on him. Kevin should own this match-up.
5. On Guard
Biggest problem for the Celtics? The same problem every other team faces: who stops LeBron? Nobody, of course. They'll try Jae Crowder, they'll try Marcus Smart, but LeBron will take over in this series when he wants to. It should happen fast. My prediction: Cavaliers in 5.