With LeBron's Cavs handily dismissing the Hawks, what could the Celtics have done against rest of East?

Through two games in the Eastern Conference Finals LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have been far too much for the Atlanta Hawks to handle. Many were expecting Atlanta to challenge the defense of Cleveland more than their previous opponents.

Having more shooters and good ball movement was expected to create more spacing than what Boston and Chicago had to offer in the previous rounds, and through the first half of Game 1 that seemed to be happening. Since then the Cavs have been having more success.

It helps when J.R. Smith makes eight three's like he did in Game 1, but aside from Smith's 8-12 from 3, the rest of the Cavs were a combined 2-14 from behind the arc. That 2-14 included more than a few wide open misses from Matthew Dellavedova, James Jones, and Iman Shumpert. While Smith's barrage certainly galvanized the team, his teammates were as bad as he was good, so Atlanta didn't even get hit as hard as they could have.

The real surprise is how Cleveland's offense has been performing without Kevin Love at all and essentially without Kyrie Irving, who played in Game 1 but was obviously slowed by his knee injury, and missed Game 2 altogether. The loss of Kevin Love has not hurt Cleveland yet like many predicted.

In a strange way underutilizing him all year has served to soften the blow of missing him. With Kyrie out LeBron has taken over the lion's share of the ball handling, and Atlanta just doesn't have anyone capable of making that a problem now that Demarre Carroll is also slowed.

The series has so far, and almost certainly will continue, to be decided on the other end of the court. Atlanta is having a hard time generating good shots, and even when they get them they are missing them. In Game 2 the Hawks were 3-13 on contested jumpers, and 7-30 on uncontested jumpers. From 3 they were 6-26 (10-49 overall in games 1 and 2).
Credit to Bazemore for going all the way with the throwbacks
by including the 80's shorts

That was BEFORE they lost Kyle Korver (looks like he should have just kept running and never returned from that LeBron dunk in Game 1, could have saved an injury) for the rest of the postseason. Laying bricks like that is not going to open up any passing or driving lanes, and sagging back and clogging the lane has allowed Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov to muck up the paint and defend the rim far better than they could otherwise.

Cleveland taking the first two in Atlanta combined with the pile of injuries the Hawks are now facing have all signs pointing to a breeze into the NBA Finals, and most likely a sweep. This is where the Celtics fan starts to get ornery. So my Celtics got swept by the Cavs? The Cavs that are now on their way to sweeping the number one seed Hawks? WHY THE HELL DID WE HAVE TO GET MATCHED UP WITH CLEVELAND IN THE FIRST ROUND?!? The Celtics posted a 7-2 mark against Easter Conference playoff teams since the end of February, when the team found its identity. Its hard not to wonder how they might have fared if they had the 8th seed rather than the 7th seed.

That bracket would have matched them up with Atlanta in round one, who had more trouble than expected dispatching the Brooklyn Nets. The Celtics were 1-2 during the regular season vs. the Hawks, but both losses came before the Celtics turned into the team they became the last third of the season. Those 2 losses also coincide with Atlanta's hottest stretch of the season. That series would have been a great one to watch if you're a Celtic fan, and for the sake of this post I say we win (in reality I think it at LEAST goes 6).

The way the bracket was aligned we would then have faced off against the Washington Wizards, who took Atlanta to six games before bowing out, and missed forcing a Game 7 by less than a second. The Celtics were also 1-2 against the Wizards this year, with all three games coming in the 2014 calendar well before they hit their stride. That series would have been entertaining and I believe certainly would have gone 6 or 7, especially with John Wall's injury. Plus you know Paul Pierce would have taken it easy on us, right guys?

Either way there is Cleveland waiting in the Eastern Conference Finals to eventually run us out of the gym. The East has about 10 teams with varying degrees of talent, and then whatever team LeBron James is on. Unfortunately we drew that assignment in round one. It would have been fun to see exactly where the Celtics would land when matched up with any of the LeBron-less teams, and even if they were still eliminated in round one, it would have been a much better series and certainly no sweep. Of course none of this ever happened, but it is something fun to think about while trying to tune out Reggie Miller announcing Eastern Conference Finals Game 3.

Top Photo Credit: CBSTV Videos
Middle Photo Credit: Sportingnews.com

Follow me on Twitter Thomp_26