Can the Celtics beat the Cavaliers - Paul Pierce & Scottie Pippen think so
On Espn's The JumpPaul Pierce and Scottie Pippen gave their thoughts on the Celtics chance of victory in the Conference Finals.
Pippen cited the fact that the Celtics are playing with confidence and added that the young players are stepping up and showing leadership. Scottie mentioned Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier specifically in his analysis.
Paul Pierce indicated that Lebron James would be the best player in the series, but the Celtics may have the second, third and fourth best players, stating that he would take Al Horford over Kevin Love. Paul also had thoughts on the coaching match-up (per Boston.Com's Nicole Yang):
But where the Celtics hold the definitive edge, according to Pierce, is at head coach.
“Ty Lue is a great coach, but [Brad Stevens] is the best coach in basketball right now,” he said. “No offense to [Gregg] Popovich and what he’s done, but this guy right here is the best coach in the NBA.”
“That says a lot,” Pierce continued. “Look what he’s doing with the Boston Celtics. If the Celtics end up in the Finals, come on.”
Pierce added Tatum and Rozier's names to Horford's as the 2nd, 3rd and 4th best players in the upcoming series. In the playoffs thus far, Cleveland has only four players with double-digit scoring, and two of them (J. R. Smith and Kyle Korver) are only averaging roughly 10 PPG.
Lebron is averaging 34.2 PPG and Love is averaging a double-double with 14.7 PPG and 10.1 RPG. Conversely, Boston has six players averaging double-digit scoring in the playoffs. Unless things change, this will be the The King & Kevin show versus the more-balanced attack of the Celtics. It is interesting that The King is averaging in the playoffs as many points as the combined total of the next three players on his team.
Lebron is the motor, heart and soul of his team, and slowing him down is paramount. We read early in the season how effective Marcus Morris has been in the past guarding James, and we would like to see some of that. Hopefully those rumors are true. Jaylen Brown had that task last year in the post-season, and Jaylen looked healthy in last night's finale against the 76'ers.
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Marcus Smart and Semi Ojeleye may take on Lebron at times, but it will be defense-by-committee for most of the game. Pierce's comments are particularly interesting. He sees Al, Jayson and Terry as the next-best players to Lebron. Smith and Korver aren't exactly shining in the off-season, but they can get hot.
It really thins out after that for Cleveland but not for the Celtics. Jaylen seems healthy and he has had a number of very good games in the playoffs. Marcus Smart drives every opposing team nuts, and he has a few days to rest that surgically-repaired hand.
Aron Baynes had a solid finale against Philly, and Morris can always explode at any time. So yes, Boston to my way of thinking has a good shot to eliminate the Cavs and go on to the Finals. It begins this Sunday at 3:30 PM.
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Photo via Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images