Cavs, Celtics and a little Magic: Sizing up the sizzling East race
Cleveland (48-12) has a one-game lead over Boston (48-14) in the race for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. The first tiebreaker if the teams finished with identical records is head-to-head results; the season series is 1-1 with the final matchup set for April 12 in Cleveland. In other words, these two remaining showdowns could determine the location of a potential Game 7 in the conference finals.
With that in mind, here are 10 burning questions to consider about this budding rivalry and the Eastern race.
The Celtics don't figure to be as inept on the road as they were during the 2008 playoffs, but nobody in Boston relishes the possibility of having to play a Game 7 in the ear-splitting environment of Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavs are 27-1 this season. Also, the Cavs have been the stronger road team in the clubs' recent meetings. As one Celtics insider put it, "When Cleveland plays in Boston, we win. When Boston plays in Cleveland, they win
Forget about evaluating a schedule based solely on winning percentages, because that takes away too many variables such as matchups, recent injuries and back-to-back situations. After Friday night, Cleveland has a tough road game against Phoenix (middle game in a three-game trip), two matchups with Orlando (one of which comes on the second night of a back-to-back) and a Sunday afternoon game against San Antonio. Boston also has two games left with Orlando, a road game at San Antonio and two meetings with pesky Atlanta, which always seems to get up to play the Celtics. Philadelphia could play a big role in deciding the No. 1 seed: The Sixers play the Cavs (twice) and Boston in three of the last five games of the season.
Besides securing the home-court edge, the winner avoids a potential second-round matchup with Orlando (44-16), which has the league's fourth-best record. It's hard to know exactly what to make of the post-
Maybe we should. The Magic are only four games behind Cleveland with 22 to play, and they have those two matchups with both the Cavs and Celtics looming. Orlando could sneak back into contention, though it faces the difficult task of leapfrogging two teams.
If the Celtics know when Garnett will be back from his knee strain, they sure are hiding it well.
"I actually don't know the answer to that [question]," coach
Expect the Celtics to take the cautious route with KG. Rivers has been channeling his inner
It's a wash. The Celtics really wanted
As for Marbury, the concerns here are the potential (however slight) that he'll disrupt team chemistry, and the uncertainty of where he'll get his minutes. Come April,
Absolutely. Allen is maddening sometimes. He's a bona fide chucker who is no threat to score from the perimeter. But defense is his hallmark. At his best, Allen is a rugged defender who can match up with
Smith was a solid pickup. He has the trust of LeBron (no small factor) and is as comfortable playing five minutes as he is 25. Smith will stabilize the frontcourt in the short term and give Cleveland one extra big man to send out at Garnett and
Rivers has a strong coaching staff, too, highlighted by defensive mastermind
Cleveland. LeBron trumps Pierce in an epic rematch.