BOSTON, MA (WOIO) - Nobody needs to ride from Lexington to Concord issuing warnings, as Paul Revere did in 1775. The Cavaliers already have New Englanders' full attention.
I asked a couple of my best friends -- die-hard Celtics fans who I grew up with, for their series predictions -- leading off with my own: Cavs in 6.
To which one of them immediately replied, "You mean: LeBron in 6?"
That's the ongoing narrative in these playoffs, and it'll stay that was as long as he continues to put up historic numbers. But, it's not quite that simple. They wouldn't be here if he hadn't gotten some help.
So here are the keys for the Cavaliers, beginning with the obvious:
1) LeBron. Nobody tortures the Celtics like LeBron does. He's averaging more than 30 points per game against 'em in the playoffs, and has beaten them the last six times in Boston. Once he got over the hump against this team (2012), he took ownership. The Celtics will throw some different looks at him, but they've already admitted he's going to get his points.
2) Play Smart. As in, Marcus Smart. The Cavaliers will have to match his grit and intensity. If you're a Celtics fan, you probably cringe every time Smart hacks up a shot, but he does so many other things well, especially defensively, that he'll make life tough for some of the Cavaliers (Kyle Korver).
3) Let's Get Physical. The Pacers did, throwing Korver off his game a few times in that series. The Celtics will be even better. They are the ultimate 'team', with their two stars (Kyrie, Hayward) out, and are almost always in the right place defensively. The Cavs will have to battle their way into open shots, and of course then drain them to take the pressure off of LeBron.
4) Whole Lotta Love. There's simply no way to overstate how important Kevin Love is in this series. If he's matched up against Al Horford, who finally is earning his $30 million a year deal, Love will certainly be challenged, but as he showed against the Raptors, when he rebounded from a bad start in Game 1 to take a co-starring role in that series, he's capable of giving the Cavs a "Big 2" again. They'll need it.
5) Match the Genius. Which of course is what everyone considers Celtics coach Brad Stevens, a genius. He's good, no doubt. But I wonder if the love affair between Stevens and the media rankles other coaches. Stevens didn't get one vote from his peers for "Coach of the Year". Anyway, I'll say it again: Ty Lue is underrated as a coach. But he'll need to be on his game to match Stevens as this series plays out.