Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James has had plenty of good and bad moments in his career against the Boston Celtics. The 2018 Eastern Conference Finals will likely add to that.
Cleveland will look to eliminate Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive season as the lower seed. James and his Cavaliers teammates expect a hard fought battle against the boys from Beantown.
“They're one of the most well coached team in our league,” James said during a media availability at Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence, Ohio on May 11. “Brad Stevens ability to get the most out of his guys. He can put guys into positions to succeed and get the most out of however has been in their lineup.”
Despite not having home court advantage, James and the Cavaliers are heavy favorites to advance to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. If that happens, it will be the eighth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals for LeBron going back to his days with the Miami Heat.
The Celtics however could potentially end LeBron's reign in Cleveland for a second time. In 2010, Boston lead by its big three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen eliminated James and the Cavaliers in the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Two months later, James made the decision to join the Heat to begin his run of consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
Cleveland won the regular season series over Boston two games to one. That won't matter once the series tips off Sunday afternoon at T.D Bank Garden. Both teams have had to battle injuries and drama throughout the regular season. Cleveland's current roster only faced the Celtics once. Cleveland won in Boston 121-99 on February 11.
LeBron knows the Celtics aren't at full strength entering this series. Boston's two biggest offseason acquisitions, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are out. The rest of the roster is stepping up at the right time, especially the Cleveland area native Terry Rozier.
“I've been watching Terry since he was a freshman in high school,” James said. “He's been a confident kid then when I watched him at Shaker (Shaker Heights, an eastern suburb of Cleveland), he's a confident player now. I thought it was a steal when they drafted him. He's gotten better and better.”
LeBron and company need to contain Rozier in addition to Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Jaylen Brown throughout the series. If that happens, James, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers should advance again to the NBA Finals.