By Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, AFRO Sports Desk
The Boston Celtics are missing two all-stars and the Cleveland Cavaliers are missing consistent contributors around LeBron James, yet both teams stand a game away from meeting up with each other in the Eastern Conference Finals. The two teams have turned adversity into advantages and are steamrolling into what should be an interesting matchup. Who’s been more impressive? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate.
Riley: After Cleveland dropped their playoff opener to Indiana, we were just trying to figure out if James would make it out the first round. A few weeks later and we’re analyzing another potential Finals appearance. James has been better than awesome this postseason. If he had an MVP-type regular season then he’s having an even better postseason. Boston received a favorable matchup in the first round against a young, up-and-coming Milwaukee Bucks team and they’re squaring off in the second round against a talented, equally young and up-and-coming Philadelphia team. James and the Cavs, on the other hand, are a game away from sweeping the top-seeded Toronto Raptors.
Green: No Kyrie Irving and no Gordon Hayward and still Boston is one game away from a conference Finals of their own. They’ve been fortunate to be in a favorable field considering the age of their opponents but are we forgetting about the youthful Celtics? Irving replacement, Terry Rozier, is 24 years-old, the electric Jaylen Brown is 21 and rookie starter Jayson Tatum is only 20. Aside from the dependable Al Horford, this is the core driving the Celtics right now. We’re used to seeing James rip up first round opponents and sweep the Toronto Raptors, but we haven’t seen a Conference Finals run fueled by this type of young cast.
Riley: Boston’s playoff heroes are young, but a strong regular season provided home court advantage which has given them an edge. Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia are all young teams in this postseason and typically those type of matchups are decided by home court. Game Seven against the Bucks could’ve gone differently had the location been outside of Massachusetts. The 20-plus lead that the 76ers squandered in Boston during Game 2 might have been salvaged had the comfy confines of Philadelphia been there for support. However, Cleveland hasn’t held home court advantage this spring considering they lost their chance at that by dropping Game 1 to Indiana in the first round. They boldly swept Toronto from their own home despite being tied with Houston for the best home record in the league this season. James continues to impress and the Cavs have followed his lead.
Green: The Celtics continue to show why they’re one of the top organizations in the NBA. We expected James and the Cavs to be at this point. We didn’t expect Boston to be here once Hayward went down, and we definitely called it quits once Irving was declared out for the rest of the playoffs. The scary thing is trying to guess how good the Celtics will be next season. Boston may not win a title this summer, but from what we’ve seen, they’re definitely not too far off. I’m used to seeing James thrash through the postseason in the Eastern Conference. I’m just getting used to these new Celtics and I like what I’m seeing.