Wednesday, May 17 – Cavaliers at Celtics
Pregame – Battling the ‘Perfect Roster’
BOSTON – Celtics coach Brad Stevens says there’s a reason why the Cleveland Cavaliers have coasted through the playoffs unbeaten thus far.
“This is a perfect roster,” said Boston’s coach an hour and 45 minutes before tipping off against the Cavs for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
What Stevens is referring to is how Cleveland has carefully constructed a team full of knockdown shooters that surround LeBron James. The Cavs added Kyle Korver, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Deron Williams and Derrick Williams at the trade deadline to bolster their already-strong cast of shooters.
Having those role players to account for, alongside the likes of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and others, puts a ton of pressure on opposing defenses. That’s a scary thought when they also have to focus on stopping the best player in the world.
“You never want to double (James) when you have that much shooting because then eventually they’re going to find a good shot,” said Stevens. “And if not, they’re going to get the rebound. But then how do you not pay extra attention to the best player in the world, and then with the way Kyrie has scored the ball on the biggest stage over, and over, and over, there’s another one that you have to react to over and over.”
So far, no team has had an answer to James and the Cavs. The four-time MVP has averaged 34.4 points per game, while his team as a whole has averaged a league-best 14.4 3-point makes during the postseason while shooting a league-high 43.4 percent from deep.
The only way to stop an offense like that is to glue a defender on every Cavs player. The problem with that approach is that you then have to sacrifice your presence on the boards, which is not ideal when you’re facing two elite rebounders in Love and Tristan Thompson.
“[When] you’re flying all over the place, you’re in terrible position to rebound,” said Stevens. “And then if they get it, then you have to fly back out to find those guys again because they’re looking to kick out for another 3. It’s a really tough matchup. It’s a really tough thing to guard.”
There is no question that Cleveland has an advantage in this series when it comes to star quality and overall talent, but Boston has an edge in the heart department.
The Celtics have grinded through the postseason and have bounded over every barrier thrown their way.
Heart will be the key to this series as well for Boston. The only way it can beat the Cavs is by matching their physicality and by providing endless effort on both ends of the court. The Celtics, as we all know, are fully capable of doing that.
Yes, Cleveland may have “a perfect roster,” but that can be overcome by a perfect effort on the other end of the floor.
Perfect is what the Celtics must be for 48 minutes on four occasions during this series. They will take their first crack at 8:30 p.m.
– Taylor C. Snow