Friday, April 16, 2010

The Cleveland Cavaliers Will Win it All

"The Cavaliers are the best team!"  Words uttered by my Celtics-loyal 7 year old the other day.

"What about the Celtics?"  I asked him thinking that perhaps he just forgot about his favorite basketball team.

"They're my FAVORITE team," he begins, "but the Cavaliers have Lebron James.  He's so awesome!" 

And so it goes.  Less than two years removed from their 17th championship, the Celtics, primarily the same team as that Championship team from 2 years ago, have seemed to have aged in something other than human years.  KG looks old and slow.  Paul Pierce looks old and slow.  Rasheed Wallace looks old and slow.  This 50 win team has actually had two distinctly different seasons.  A blistering 23-5 start that included a nice opening night win against the Cavaliers.  And a very mediocre 27-27 finish that included locker room chemistry issues, players tuning Coach Doc Rivers out and the Coach himself admitting that he'd rather be home than coaching the Celtics.  It has been frustrating to watch, actually .

Contrast that with the James-led Cavaliers, owners of the best record in the Eastern Conference despite losing their last four games and despite arguably their second best player (Shaquille O'Neal) has been hobbled all year and their fifth best player (Delonte West) is simply nuts.  They have steam rolled through the regular season and appear to be ready to claim their first Championship.

The question isn't whether the Cavaliers are a better team than the Celtics in 2009-10, but rather, can the Celtics win a series from the Cavaliers if they were to play each other?  A quick peek at the four most important factors for series play - Starters, Bench, Coaching and Hometown crowds - will help me decide (like I need to go through this know who would win).

1.  Starters.  These teams, incluiding  King James, are evenly matched to start the game. 

PG  Rajon Rondo vs. Mo Williams.  Adv. Celtics
SG Ray Allen vs. Anthony Parker. Adv. Celtics
PF  Kevin Garnett vs. Antawn Jamison.  Adv. Cavs
SF  Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James.  Big Adv. Cavs
C  Kendrick Perkins vs. Anderson Varejao.  Even

When the Celtics starting 5 are out on the floor together, they will stick with the Cavaliers for most of the game.  I predct this even in a grueling series such as this.

2.  Bench.  The beginning of the Second Quarter, when the benches begin to be cleared out, demonstrate Cleveland's superiority.  The Cavaliers showcase a strong bench led by J.J. Hickson, Big Z, Delonte West and a returning Shaquille O'Neal.  On the other hand, the Celtics "showcase" a listless Rasheed Wallace, porous defensive stalwarts Nate Robinson and Marquise Daniels, and a bunch of stiffs (with all due respect to Michael Finley who can still make the occasional 3 pointer and Glenn "Big Baby" Davis who is the only Celtic player to give any effort on the offensive boards).  Cleveland has a big advantage when the Second Quarter starts.  Any time the Celtics bring out a bench player, except for Tony Allen, the Celtics are losing not only scoring, but also swagger.

3.  Coaching.  A coach who doesn't want to be coaching any more versus a coach who shouldn't be coaching anymore.  Pick 'em, cause I can't.

4.  Homecourt Advantage.  Having just recently attended a game at the new Garden, the crowd had trouble getting going.  Between the lazy, disinterested play, all of the technical fouls that has become an epidemic for this team and the 17 previous banners, I can see where the crowd's boredom is coming from.  Conversely, the Cavaliers are a fun bunch of guys to watch, led by the boisterous and playful King James.  The crowd is desperate for a championship and you can feel it through the TV.  Even Shaquille O'Neal appears to be enjoying himself.  Couple all of that with the fact that the Cavaliers will enjoy one more game at home, and this can only be classified as a huge advantage for the Cavaliers.

Back in 2008, the Celtics needed 7 games and home court advantage to dispatch the young Cavaliers.  Since then, the Celtics have gotten measurably worse and the Cavaliers have gotten measurably better.  No need for 7 games if they play each other.  Cavaliers win 4-1.

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