Compiled by Sopan Deb, Boston.com web intern
Toto, we’re not in Miami anymore. In a rarity for the Big Three-era Celtics, they have been given underdog status in the semifinal series against the Cavaliers, tipping off tomorrow night at 8 p.m..
Here’s a roundup of opinion from national and Cleveland media. Most agree that this series, while certainly more interesting now than two weeks ago, is LeBron’s to lose.
Ken Berger, CBS Sports.com
The frequent observation that the Cavs’ offense consists of giving the ball to LeBron and getting out of the way is backed up by data compiled by Synergy Sports Technology. According to Synergy’s logs for all Cavs games this season (including playoffs), LeBron’s 898 field-goal attempts on either isolation plays or as the pick-and-roll ball handler represent a whopping 13 percent of Cleveland’s total field-goal attempts.
When LeBron is in isolation, the Celtics will have three defenders staggered in front of him at all times. When LeBron goes to the pick-and-roll game, he’ll be attacking an area that the Celtics defend exceedingly well when they’re at their best. So the outcome of this series will come down to everything you’d expect it to: How much LeBron decides to do himself, how much help his supporting cast can provide, and how the Celtics defend all of it.
If these teams don’t like each other now, just wait until this slugfest is over.
Prediction: Cavs in 7. Read the full story here.
Jeff Goodman, Fox Sports.com
Their raggedy old legs had enough left to dispatch D-Wade and the Miami Heat, but the Boston Celtics aren’t ready for LeBron and the Cavs.
Brian Mahoney, Associated Press
Storyline: Rematch of a second-round series from two years ago, when the Celtics survived in seven games on their way to the NBA championship. Even if this one doesn’t go as long, it should be just as spirited, since James acknowledged after the last meeting: “We don’t like them. They don’t like us.”
Prediction: Cavaliers in 5. Read the full story here
Vince Grzegorek of The Cleveland Scene offers an excellent video timeline of the bad blood between the Cavaliers and Celtics.
Nick Carrabine, The News-Herald
I hate the Celtics. Never liked Paul Pierce. Him spitting towards the Cavs bench a few years ago in a preseason game didn’t really help matters either. Kevin Garnett is the NBA’s biggest trash talker and Glen Davis is literally the NBA’s biggest cry baby. But as Vince Vaughn’s Wes Mantooth says to Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy in Anchorman: “I hate you, but (goshdarn)it, do I respect you.”
My realistic prediction: Cleveland in six. Read the full story here.
Chris Sheridan, ESPN.comAmong the key questions: Will Ray Allen keep up his 3-point proficiency, and will Mo Williams and Delonte West show any? Will Pierce he able to match James mano a mano if each team needs to lean on its best offensive player? Is the Shaquille O’Neal-Kendrick Perkins matchup a wash? Can Rondo continue to be a Mr. Everything when the Cavs try to bait him into trying to do too much? Do the forward tandems of Garnett and Davis versus Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao cancel each other out? Or maybe it’ll just come down to this: Who has the greater desire? The stronger killer instinct?
John Schuhmann, NBA.com
This is looking like a much more interesting series that it would have just two weeks ago. The Celtics can keep it tight by keeping it ugly, but the Cavs simply have too much talent, starting with the best player in the world. Cleveland in 6.
And finally, here is a screenshot of every ESPN.com analyst picking the Cavaliers to win the series, including Truehoop blogger Henry Abbott who picks Cleveland to sweep.