Back to Boston: LeBron, Celtics meet again in postseason

On a night when Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas and Washington Wizards sharpshooter Bradley Beal cancelled out each other's heroics on Monday, Game Seven of the National Basketball Association Eastern Conference semi-finals needed someone else to separate the two teams in a tightly-fought series. Besides the fact that the Celtics have home field advantage in this series, they will need many things to go their way to have a shot against this year's Cleveland Cavaliers team.

The Celts have taken a "we are going to outscore you" approach to this season, both regular and post. But the cost was that the Celtics' best players have played a lot more minutes over the last month than the Cavs' best players. On Monday, he could, scoring 14 points in the final quarter as he helped lead his team to a 115-105 victory.

But if Cleveland plays the Washington Wizards in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday, the Cavs would see two dynamic guards and scorers in John Wall and Bradley Beal.

FILE - In this April 5, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James dribbles the ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, in Boston.

Boston is 8-5 in the postseason.

"I think they're better than any of the four times we played them, including the last one when they smashed us", Boston coach Brad Stevens said. James is in this round for the seventh consecutive time, having last been stopped short of the NBA Finals when the Celtics beat the Cavaliers in the 2010 East Conference semifinals.

Amir Johnson started five of the seven games against the Wizards, as he provided rim protection against the Wizards' slashers. It is an acknowledgment that LeBron James is averaging 34.4 points per game this postseason, the second-best mark of his Hall of Fame career. Boston went 53-29 and finished with the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference and the 4th best record in the league, ahead of the defending champion Cavaliers. Surely, there is a reason the games are played, and this Celtics team has come up with a number of inspiring victories over superior teams in the past two seasons.

"We're just all about winning", Lue said. We'll do a better job getting Kevin involved, getting him more touches. LeBron is that ultimate kind of player. We got here faster than Boston did.

James showed up at Tuesday's media gathering wearing a T-shirt that had a leprechaun with a halo over its head on it.

"I'm not about story lines", James said without flinching. "The only storyline is Celtics vs. Cavs and who can win the series". He was everything in nearly every playoff game before, and the thing in Game 6 when he stepped up to hit the game-winning three-pointer, but he couldn't find any rhythm to close out the final half of the series, scoring zero points on 11 missed shots in 19 minutes. Horford is averaging 16.1 points on 64 percent shooting, while Olynyk scored a playoff career-high 26 in the Game 7 clincher Monday. "They said: 'We're staying home on all your shooters".

With an undefeated 2017 postseason record, it will be hard to pick against the Cleveland Cavaliers in this series, but the No. 1 seeded Celtics have the best shot of anyone in the Eastern Conference.

Of course, none of what Boston does on offence will truly matter unless they manage to slow down a red-hot Cavaliers offence, which is now shooting lights out at 43.4 per cent on 3-pointers, a mark even better than their efficient 39.1 per cent in the regular season. If the C's want a chance in this series, they can't just be happy to be there - or too excited to be there. We got the No. 1 seed, and they didn't give us a chance. "We're a totally different team".

Al Horford, brilliant in these playoffs, added, "Everyone's going to roll with the champs until somebody beats them".



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