As we approach Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Celtics bandwagon is resembling the one described by Mike Bibby. We’re getting ridiculous Kevin Garnett is to Alex Rodriguez comparisons and even Scoop Jackson is abandoning ship. Over in Cleveland, they’re drawing all kinds of crazy conclusions from the first round, and suddenly Delonte West is channeling Dale Ellis.
Here’s my favorite:
I liked the way Cavs guard Delonte West developed as a shooter in the Washington series. I loved the way guard Wally Szczerbiak shot it in Game 6. West is starting to be a trend. Wally still has to prove he can string good games together. If “Two Z’s” makes the 3, this is a serious, serious upset brewing.
Right, so after four years in the NBA, Delonte has “developed,” based on one game Wally is awesome (no mention of the previous 30 games as a Cav when he shot under 40 percent), and I have no idea what that last part is all about.
Thankfully, the series begins tonight. After the jump, three things you might actually need to know about the Cavs.
1. LeBron James is truly great. He is an amazing player who probably still isn’t as good as he’s going to be. There really aren’t words that can do him justice, but Bob Ryan gave it a go today, so read his piece. Here’s the thing about LeBron in this series for anyone wanting to draw conclusions from the Joe Johnson Experience: There is no way in hell Ray Allen will ever be matched up one-on-one against LeBron on the perimeter on purpose.
Johnson had a series-altering Game 4, and solid performances in Games 3 and 5, but in the other four games, he shot 20-for-62, so it’s not like he spent the last few weeks shredding the Celtics defense.
LeBron will go off. He will probably score a truckload of points, and he is very capable of winning games (plural) in this series. But, don’t look at his points, look at his shooting percentage. If he gets into a one-on-one thing with Paul Pierce and doesn’t utilize his perimeter options it will be a very short series.
2. Speaking of the perimeter players: In Cleveland’s first-round win over Washington, Delonte West and Daniel Gibson went nuts, with each hitting 50 percent of their 3-pointers. KG’s favorite player, Wally Szczerbiak, was decidedly less accurate, hitting only 4-of-16 from distance before having a major Game 6 explosion when he scored 26 points.
The Celtics are not the Wizards. Boston held opponents to a paltry .316 shooting percentage from 3-point range, the best in the league, while Washington’s 3-point defense was the worst at .386. If the Celtics can keep Gibson, West, and Wally in check that will put major pressure on LeBron.
3. Cleveland adds one other dimension and that is Zydrunas Ilgauskus. Big Z is a tremendous shooter, and it will be interesting to see how the Celtics plan to defend him. They will probably start with Kendrick Perkins on him to allow Garnett to anchor the defense from the baseline, while also keeping an eye on offensively-challenged Ben Wallace in case Wallace tries to gets frisky on the boards. Look for Big Baby to get some run here too. He was very effective against Cleveland in limited minutes during the regular season.
Here’s the most important thing to remember: The Celtics are simply a better team. They went 30-11 on the road during the regular season, and it’s ludicrous to think that three games in Atlanta are a better indicator of their abilities away from the Garden. They have huge matchup advantages at two positions, and they have the home court advantage. The Pick: Celtics in 5.