Brad Stevens trusting his bench is important for another reason: resting the starters. He scored 11 of 13 points for Boston as the Celtics stretched their advantage to 110-100. The Wizards joined the Capitals, who lost in Game 7 last week, as the latest D.C. teams to come up short of a conference finals appearance.
The Celtics dropped three of four regular season games against the Cavaliers this season. He is averaging 29 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists in those games. Cleveland is vastly better than Chicago, which took Boston to six games, and Washington, which extended the C's to seven. The Celtics are simply not yet at the stage in their development where they can impose their will for any reasonable length of time on a better and more experienced opponent. Thomas, 5-foot-9, is averaging 25.4 points and 6.5 assists in the playoffs.
Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love has improved his level of play since joining the team through a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the summer of 2014, but as of late, the biggest growth in his game is in maturity.
In Game 4 of their 2015 first-round series, which was swept by Cleveland, Boston's Kelly Olynyk and Love got tangled up and Love was sidelined with a shoulder injury; Cavs forward J.R. Smith delivered a backhand punch to the face of Boston's Jae Crowder and former Cavs enforcer Kendrick Perkins delivered a crushing blindside screen on Crowder. Instead, the picture is rather bright.
"The Sports Guy" even suggested a defensive strategy the Celtics could use.
Isaiah Thomas did score 29 points and rack up 12 assists as well, but the most glaring statistic is what Olynyk did for the Celtics' off the bench to clinch Game 7. We just go out and play. We got the No. 1 seed and they didn't give us a chance. "We're just going to take care of business as we go". "We're lucky to move on".
Clearly, that last part is a lie, but in the right way. He also said the Cavs are better now than they were then, especially on defense, which was Cleveland's biggest concern headed into the playoffs. Again, such a modest goal doesn't fit in with the championship mantra of Boston, but it is an acceptance of the way of life in the National Basketball Association. Conversely, Boston has allowed a league-low 7.8 made 3-pointers per game in the playoffs. Lue said. "Let's ride it while he's been playing great".
Al Horford, brilliant in these playoffs, added, "Everyone's going to roll with the champs until somebody beats them". "So it's going to be a fun challenge for our group". It took all seven games to find a victor and the home team won every single game. We already know that Irving and Avery Bradley are going to toe-to-toe in this series. This looks like the standard dribble handoff that Boston often runs.
We'll find out once and for all if the Cavs are rust-proof. They have almost a 50 percent chance of landing either the No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick. Home court advantage was the little push that each team needed to get the wins at home.
But that's a potential franchise-altering moment for another day.
James is getting plenty of help from Irving, who is averaging 23.8 points and 5.8 assists per game.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James has been in the National Basketball Association for 14 seasons and has learned a thing or two about the use of psychology against an opponent. We know we have to play well to beat this team. "We've been counted out since I've been here, so it's nothing new". Their opponents so far this postseason haven't been able to keep up because they haven't gotten stops. "That's all the motivation we need, and that's how it should be".
That mentality is sure to serve them well in the next round, and certainly, they will not make anything easy for Cleveland.
The next stage was even tougher, as they confronted Washington Wizards, their archrivals in the past two season.
It was not just Game 7 that saw Wall struggle in the spotlight. That guy is a true victor, plays with a lot of toughness, he's exactly what you need to lead your team. It just feels good, because there's a lot of talk. The two had never been mistaken for rivals before, had not met in the playoffs since 1984, and yet there was certifiable bad blood between them.
Here's why the Cavs will eliminate Boston for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.