Boston Celtics: Why LeBron’s stranglehold on the East is over

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 3: Kyrie Irving
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 3: Kyrie Irving /

LeBron James may have a revamped team, but the Boston Celtics are still the favorites to make it out of the East.

On February 8th, 2018 Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman thought that his team needed a change to keep pace with the top teams in the East like the Boston Celtics. Not just a tweak, but a massive overhaul.

Gone were the old veterans in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Iman Shupert and Derrick Rose; in came the young Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, and Rodney Hood. To also solidify the point guard position which they lacked production from all season long, Cleveland also brought in reliable journeyman point guard George Hill.

The media proclaimed that these moves meant that “Cleveland would once again win the East”. After the first two games with this new squad, it seemed that the media was on something.

LeBron and his new toys looked great at first. They dismantled the Celtics at the TD Garden by 22 points. In the second game together Cleveland traveled to Oklahoma City and looked more energized than they had all season to that point, and beat the Thunder by 8.

Then, the All-Star break occurred

Prior to the break, many rosters in the NBA are still working on learning to play well together, and their record may suffer because of it. However, after the break, teams tend to take it up a notch. There are fewer breaks, and more urgency to win games in order to improve your standings in your conference.

Since the break, the Cavaliers have come back to mediocrity, as they have lost 4 of their last 6 games, and the aforementioned wins came against bottom feeders in the Memphis Grizzlies and Brooklyn Nets. During that stretch, LeBron has really been the only Cavaliers player to have a steady offensive output, as the rest of the team has really struggled to get the ball in the basket.

As far as defense goes, the Cavs since the break have allowed a whopping 111 points per game. The team was hot for a few games, but adding the Lakers 4th and 5th best players, Utah’s 4th best player, and a journeyman point guard will not improve your team the extent that will make it a title contender. The Cavs are younger and more athletic, but that does not change the fact that this will be LeBron’s first time not playing in the Finals since 2010.

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As for the Boston Celtics, they are cementing themselves as the favorite out of the East.

Though Toronto is the best team at the moment according to the standings, no team is as geared for a deep playoff run than Boston.

The Raptors are a solid team, however, this movie has been shown before. Toronto shows flashes of finally getting over the hump in the playoffs, but still can’t get past the second round of the playoffs.

Boston, however, has a star in Kyrie Irving who in 2016 hit a shot to win an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Al Horford, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart are all cornerstones of the team that have played in the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston’s only issue is if they can get consistent play from Jayson Tatum and free agent acquisition Greg Monroe. Tatum like every rookie is eventually expected to hit the “rookie wall”, but if he evades it, watch out.

Overall, the Celtics are a fantastic defensive team, and on any given night anyone on the roster can give you a great offensive output.  There are a number of players who can give Kyrie some help, something very different from the Celtics teams of recent memory where everything was reliant upon Isaiah Thomas.

The only challenge is whether they can do it consistently.

Next: The 5 greatest Boston Celtics guards of all time

This  Boston Celtics team is for real, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t be in Houston or San Francisco for Game 1 of the NBA Finals come May 31.