New Look Cavs, Celtics Rivalry Takes Center Stage In Conference Finals

I would guess that before the season began at least seven out of every 10 basketball heads with a pulse on the league would have picked the exact NBA playoff conference finals matchups that currently exists as we enter the stretch run of an eventful 2018 season.

If any of these same basketball experts are currently patting themselves on the back and throwing their predictions in the face of the sports world after seeing that Boston will meet Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals, let them know that we know they are faking the funk. Once, Kyrie went down and Philly went on that wicked win streak to end the season, everybody was shouting “Philly this and Philly that.”

Joe on Twitter

The Celtics will likely fall to the Bucks -The Celtics have no chance against the 76ers -The Celtics lack superstars -The Celtics are too banged up -Al Horford is overrated -Marcus Smart can’t shoot -Jayson Tatum is untested -Jaylen Brown is too young -WHO IS TERRY ROZIER

The teams may be correct, but there isn’t a living soul walking the earth that could have predicted each team’s circuitous, and bizarre and unexpected path to basketball glory. 

Even with Kyrie Irvings abrupt defection, LeBron was supposed to have enough pieces to withstand the loss of his No. 2 All-Star guard and potent playoff force and King James was expected to have the opportunity to get some payback in this Eastern Conference finals matchup between the Cleveland Cavs and the Boston Celtics that actually came to fruition.  

King James did put Cleveland on his back and almost will them to a sweep of Toronto in the conference semis, but the team he won this war with is far from the team that he began the quest with. In another unprecedented move in the legacy of LeBron James, the Cavs gutted the squad midseason, endured some serious low points, dropped significantly in the conference standings and still ended up in the conference finals. For a minute there, it appeared as if Kyrie was winning the chess match — that the earth was really flat

The Shadow League on Twitter

Kyrie Irving seeing Isaiah Thomas is already being shipped out of Cleveland…

Clevelands front office went nut at the trade deadline dumping Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye on the Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Then Cleveland got George Hill and Rodney Hood from the Utah Jazz for Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder. They also shipped Joe Johnson, Iman Shumpert, and 2020 a second-round pick to Sacramento.

The rest is more Bron inspired history. 

The Shadow League on Twitter

LeBron James

In Beantown, Kyrie was going to team with fellow free agent All-Star Gordon Hayward, giving the Celtics a squad loaded with a perfect blend of veterans in Hayward, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford, developing young talent in third-year guard Terry Rozier, second-year swingman Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum and a proven championship ringleader in Irving.

That mix of players was supposed to help coach Brad Stevens make a serious run at LeBron and his Eastern Conference supremacy. The Celtics were the Eastern Conference regular-season champs in 2017 and then star player I.T. got hurt. They came into 2018 with stronger pieces, looking to ride Kyries wave and dethrone the Kings playoff run of seven straight Finals appearances. 

When Haywards season tragically ended a few minutes into the first game of the season it was an indisputable blow to the Celtics high hopes. Kyrie was playing like an MVP and the Celtics were winning but then Kyrie went down and most people immediately dismissed the Celtics chances of even reaching a conference finals against Cleveland. Boston is incredibly four victories away from an NBA Finals appearance if they can get past The Keeper of the Eastern Conference, the most dominant, winning force the East has seen since Michael JordanBill Russell

Incredible that experts are even giving this revamped Boston team a chance to beat LeBron in the conference finals without the services of Kyrie and Hayward. It’s also a thought that was inconceivable to all at the beginning of this season.

Who could have guessed that a newer, younger, more versatile Celtics dynamic would emerge in the absence of their two all-stars? One where Rozier, Taytum, and Brown have elevated and shown their versatility to compensate for Bostons loss in talent. In the process, the Celtics have enjoyed a wave of success that continued with a Game 5 closeout win against a highly-hyped Sixer squad on Wednesday night to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. 

NBA on Twitter

The @celtics ADVANCE to the Eastern Conference Finals! BOS defeats @sixers 114-112 to win Game 5 and take the series 4-1!

While defeating the Cavs will be a formidable task, doubting the Celtics is foolish. This NBA season has shown us that being spectators with no vested interest is the greatest joy because analyzing the constant changing pieces and narratives can distract us from the beauty, unpredictable predictability and fragility of the game and how the human element will always be the driving force behind maintaining the essence of competition.  

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