By Griffin Finch
The Eastern Conference this year came down to a Boston Celtics team that, decimated by injuries played a lot of young talented players who all proved they belong in the NBA and the Cleveland Cavaliers who struggled all year long. The only constant being the night in night out superhuman performances by LeBron James. This series took several twists and turns including Jayson Tatum cementing his star status as well as Kevin Love’s injury early in game six. This series was a series for the home team to be sure. The home team through six games dominated. Then in game seven against all odds and without the services of Kevin Love, LeBron James took over and through what can only be explained as superior will power defeated the Celtics in front of a raucous crowd in TD Garden.
The playoff run the Celtics made this season will be remembered by those who watched it for years to come. Without either of their top two players, forced to play guys who had only scarcely played during the regular season, Boston banded together to give the Cavaliers all they could handle. Several players on the Celtics roster made names for themselves this spring, including names that by now you’ve probably heard of. None more so than Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier. Those three along with their incredible young coach Brad Stevens brought the Celtics farther than anyone could have foreseen them going. Unfortunately, without the playoff experience of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward the team was too young to succeed. They did not have the exposure to playoff basketball to survive a game seven against the greatest player in the world. In the end, they strayed from what had gotten them to where they were. They started to isolate more and take poor quality shots. The defense they were known for throughout the postseason also was not up to par in the final game of the series. Overall, considering all the adversity the Celtics had to overcome just to find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals Boston had a very successful season indeed.
With their triumphant game seven victory the Cleveland Cavaliers earned their fourth consecutive birth to the NBA Finals. In every series they played leading up to the Conference Finals, there were those who thought that this would be the year LeBron misses out on basketball in June. By all accounts people that believed that were justified in their beliefs. The only other all star caliber player on the roster is Kevin Love and he is out with injury almost as often as he is available to play. This Cavs team resembles the one that Lebron carried to the Finals only to get swept by the Spurs more than it does any of the teams from the last three years. Despite the fact they beat the Pacers, they swept the Raptors and now they have beaten the Celtics. Just like in the two previous series LeBron got virtually no help from his teammates. He did get inconsistent production from some, but nothing that he could rely on from game to game. What Lebron has done this year in the playoffs should be the shining example of just how great and how valuable LeBron is. Replace The King with an average starter and the Cleveland Cavaliers become a lottery team. Purely due to LeBron’s greatness are they even sniffing the Finals. What we will learn next is just how far his greatness can take a team against truly insurmountable odds.
The Boston Celtics after a very successful season will likely look to improve their bench in order to compete with the depth on teams like the Raptors. I expect these changes to get started once they decide what they want to do with Terry Rozier who has proved that he is a very talented point guard and deserves to be paid. He is under contract through 2020 so his value is at its highest right now. They can either trade him to get pieces for the bench or they can keep him and do the same thing with Marcus Smart. They could even keep both and stand pat and hope that the return of Irving and Hayward will be enough. One way or another the Boston Celtics are going to be seriously gunning for a trip to the Finals next year. The Cleveland Cavaliers are on their way to their fourth consecutive Finals face off against the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have won two of the last three and this time looks like it may be the easiest yet. LeBron will have to be spectacular to even win a game. In all honesty, it does not look good for the Cavs as they are severe underdogs and will most likely go home once again unsuccessful in the championship round.