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Monday, April 20, 2015

NBA Playoffs Reality Check: It Will Be a Miracle if the Celtics Win a Single Game vs. Cavaliers

I am not a delusional person so I never thought for a second that the Celtics could actually beat the Cavaliers in a seven-game series, let alone win a few games and make it somewhat competitive. The first-round playoff series opened this afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena and Boston actually played about as well as they could (on the road at least) but still lost 113-100 to Cleveland. Haha would you believe that Vegas had the Celts as a 12-point underdog? How do those gambling magicians do it?

Anyways, Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 30 points in his playoff debut, LeBron James had 20 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals while Kevin Love put up 19 points and 12 rebounds in his first taste of the NBA playoffs. Forget the Celtics for a second, what other team in the Eastern Conference can beat this collection of All-Stars? For most of the regular season, I openly rooted against the C's because making the playoffs seemed so pointless to their mission of acquiring talent and assets. Near the end, I changed my mind since truly tanking was impossible and this group is extremely likable under one of the best head coaches-Brad Stevens-in basketball.

The sad reality of the NBA playoffs (and one of the many reasons that the NHL playoffs are better) is that upsets are few and far between, especially with top seeds and championship contenders. Anyone with half a brain realizes that Boston has essentially no chance to win this series. All we want is some relatively close games and maybe a win at the Garden, that'd be nice and something to build on for next season. Plus, with no Bruins playoff games this spring, we are just trying to delay what looks to be a mediocre Red Sox campaign.

Talent usually wins out in the NBA and even though the Celtics had six guys score in double-figures, led by Isaiah Thomas' 22 points, 10 assists and five rebounds off the bench, they predictably had no answer for the Cavs' big three. Evan Turner had 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists but he struggled with his shot (4 of 12 from the field). Brandon Bass and Marcus Smart were both pretty quiet, each guy was held to 10 points. Boston's bench kept them in it for a while as Kelly Olynyk scored 12 points and Jae Crowder added 10 points and five rebounds.

The Celtics couldn't have asked for a better start as they led 31-27 after the first quarter and 37-29 early in the second which was their biggest advantage of the game. Cleveland finally woke up from there and led by eight points at halftime (62-54) thanks to Irving's buzzer beating 3-pointer. The Cavaliers continued to steamroll the Celtics in the third quarter, opening up a 20-point lead (82-62) but Boston countered with a 14-0 run. Cleveland was up 91-76 heading into the fourth after another buzzer-beater 3-pointer, this time by J.R. Smith.

When you are so overmatched physically, I honestly don't know what Brad Stevens can tell his guys with a straight face. They won't suddenly wake up bigger, stronger or faster. I'm guessing that he points out how the Cavaliers made five more 3-pointers (13-8), eight more free throws (26-18) and grabbed 12 more rebounds (46-34) including eight on the offensive glass (15-7) in Game 1. I have a feeling that Game 2 on Tuesday (7, CSN) could be ugly much sooner if Cleveland decides to show up from the opening tip-off.

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