The Boston Celtics outlasted the Washington Wizards 115-105 tonight in an epic Game 7 which clinched the team’s first appearance in a Conference Final since 2012. The problem? This date is against the two-time defending Conference Champions and current National Basketball Association Champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by arguably the greatest individual player in basketball, LeBron James whose teams have made six consecutive finals. The Celtics have ground out two consecutive series as a 1 seed against two teams that on paper are not as good as they are in Washington and the Chicago Bulls, who may have beaten them if Rajon Rondo had not gotten injured, By comparison the Cavaliers completely demolished the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors, the latter of whom had star player Demar DeRozan when asked about why his Raptors had the floor mopped came up with the following quote “If we had LeBron on our team, too, we would have won”. Is this hyperbolic or does LeBron truly own the Eastern Conference as his own personal fiefdom?
Short Answer: Yes. The longer answer is that despite finishing with a better record that the Cavs, the Celtics are not a better team. The reason one can make this argument is that the Celtics were 10-2 against league bottom feeders (and divisional opponents) Brooklyn, New York, and Philadelphia, while the Cavaliers had to face playoff teams in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Indiana four times in the regular season each and the Celtics still only finished two games better than LeBron and company. They have home court advantage but given the Cavs playoffs buzzsaw, this may not mean a whole lot, except that they may end up watching another team celebrate winning the conference on their home court. Can the Celtics win the series? Yes, all things are possible in sports but barring the Celtics bench pouring on 48 points (as they did in the clincher against Washington) every single game of a potential series, it is hard to imagine this being competitive. Isaiah Thomas will probably score in bunches because Kyrie Irving is a terrible defender according to NBA Math with -116.39 total points saved on defense over the course of the year. However Thomas himself had the worst TPS score in the league with -176.15 points saved, meaning if Irving is a sieve, then Thomas is a traffic cone defensively and against the offensive juggernaut nicknamed Uncle Drew, that will not cut it. Can the Celtics contend in the future? Yes, they own one of the top lottery picks due to a trade with Brooklyn in 2013 which may help them add another X-Factor player, but that is a season away and doesn’t help them beat LeBron now. The series starts Wednesday at 8 P.M. EST with coverage on TNT.