Celtics Begin Series Against the LeBrons on the Road

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Boston Celtics (0-0, 4-1) at Cleveland Cavaliers (0-0, 4-1)
Saturday, May 1
Time 8:00 PM ET 
Round 2, Game 1
Game #6, Road Game #3
Quicken Loans Arena
Referees:     Eddie F. Rush,  Jason Phillips,  Bill Spooner  
The Celtics now shift their attention from the Miami Wades to the Cleveland LeBrons. Both Miami and Cleveland have dominant stars who virtually are able to win games by themselves. The big difference between them, though, is that the Cavs have a much better supporting cast for LeBron and also a deeper bench than Miami had.

For the first time, the Celtics will be starting a series out on the road since they do not have home court advantage in this series. They proved that they were able to win on the road in the regular season, tying Cleveland for the second best road record in the league. The Cavs are tough to beat at home but the Celtics will need to figure out a way to get it done.

Very few people outside of die hard Celtics fans give the Celtics a chance to win this. Every ESPN analyst pics the Cavs to win in anywhere from 4 to 7 games. Even Tim Legler, who was the only one to pick the Celtics against the Lakers in 2008 picks the Cavs in 7. Dan Shaughnessy's seems to be the only one who gives the Celtics any chance of beating the Cavs.

One thing will be difficult for the Celtics will be the obvious slant toward the Cavs by the officials. We have all watched LeBron James barrel through the lane, sending bodies flying or grab a rebound and swing his elbows in both directions to clear space and very rarely get called for a foul for either. The Celtics must keep their composure and not allow the officials to take them out of their game.

There is added drama from the King of all drama queens, and that is LeBron's phantom elbow injury.   I'm not buying it and hopefully the Celtics aren't either.  Supposedly, it bothered him throughout the first round but there was no evidence that it slowed him down whatsoever.  He will be 100% for this series and the Celtics need to be ready for it.  

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
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Rajon Rondo 14.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 10.2 APG, +22.6 **
Mo Williams 15.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 5.2 APG, +13.8

Shooting Guard
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Ray Allen 19.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, .528 3P%, +17.6
Anthony Parker 8.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.4 APG .391 3P%, +7.6

Small Forward
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Paul Pierce 19.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.2 APG, +18.2
LeBron James 31.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 8.2 APG, +38.6

Power Forward
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Kevin Garnett 15.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, +21.5
Antawn Jamison 19.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, +20.4

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Kendrick Perkins 5.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.2 BPG +10.2
Shaquille O'Neal 9.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.4 BPG +11.6
** Statistics are Playoff stats
Key Matchups
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Rajon Rondo 6'1", 171 lbs, 3rd year pro
Mo Williams 6'1", 190 lbs, 6 years pro
Mo Williams is capable of putting up big numbers and Rondo will need to keep his defensive focus to keep Mo in check. Rondo needs to especially stay with Mo on the perimeter. He also needs to keep up his aggressiveness on offense if the Celtics have any chance of winning. This may be one of the few matchups where the Celtics have an advantage and Rondo must make the most of it.

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Paul Pierce 6'7", 235 lbs, 11 years pro
LeBron James 6'8", 250 lbs, 6 years pro
LeBron is always a tough matchup for every team. In the past Pierce has looked forward to the challenge of defending him and has been up to the task. We can only hope for a classic Pierce performance in this one on the defensive end to try to contain LeBron. We all know that LeBron doesn't commit fouls so Pierce will be at a disadvantage but he can't let that distract him. He has to keep his focus in spite of the hacking, shoving, elbow throwing, and pushing that doesn't get called. Now, he'll even get the sympathy calls because his elbow hurts. In spite of all the talk about his elbow, I don't expect it to be a factor in this series.

Honorable Mention
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Kevin Garnett 6'11", 253 lbs, 14 years pro
Antawn Jamison 6'9", 235 lbs, 11 year pro
Jamison has been coming up big for the Cavs in the playoffs. He is the Cavs second highest scorer and his ability to hit the outside shot opens the lane for LeBron's drives. KG has a height advantage and should be able to get his shot off over Jamison. He also must slow Jamison down on the offensive end.

Players to Watch
If ever the Celtics needed Rasheed Wallace to step up, it will be in this series. He has done a lot of talking about turning the switch and stepping up his effort in the playoffs and we have not yet seen it. If Rasheed could back up that talk with a solid defensive effort along with some post play, it would be huge for the Celtics.

Anderson Varejao brings energy and hustle off the bench and in the regular season, he was the player who gave the Celtics the most problems (other than LeBron). He is also very physical and more often than not will get the benefit of the calls. The Celtics have to figure out how to slow him down.

The benches from both teams are going to be key. The Cavs are a very deep team and along with Varejao's energy, they have Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Jamario Moon and others who can come in and make a difference in a game. Big Baby, Sheed, Daniels, Finley,  and Tony especially must step up their games and make a difference as well.

Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense -Defense wins games and it wins championships. When the Celtics focus on team defense and concentrate on getting stops they can be very tough to beat. The Celtics won't win if they try to get into a run and gun shoot out with the Cavs. They must get stops and put their focus on playing the type of defense that won the championship for them in 2008.

Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have to be focused from the tip off until the end of the game. They can't afford to come out flat or lose their focus for any period against a team like the Cavs or they will take full advantage of it.

Rebound - The Celtics have to concentrate on crashing the boards. LeBron is one of the best in the league at getting tip ins and put backs and the Celtics can't afford to give the Cavs second chance points. Also, the Cavs are very good at running the break off of missed baskets and offensive rebounds will prevent this as well as to give themselves second chance points. The Celtics have got to box out and win the battle of the board.

Play Team Ball - The Celtics won't win if they try to do too much individually. They must play team ball on both the offensive and defensive ends. They have to move the ball and find the open man. When the ball sticks too much, the Celtics struggle to score.

Officials and Focus
We know that the Cavs will get the majority of the calls and the Celtics need to focus on their game, especially on the defensive end and not let the bad calls and no calls ruin their focus. They have to know that the bad calls are coming and just play through them. The Bucks almost beat the Cavs in the regular season in spite of a 45-9 free throw disparity and the Celtics certainly can beat the Cavs if they don't lose their focus. They have to know that they won't get the calls and they can't let the refs be an excuse.

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