MANILA, Philippines –Riding on the back of LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers battle a Boston Celtics side vying for its first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.
The Cavaliers, the reigning Eastern Conference champions, swept the Toronto Raptors in 4 games in the semi-finals, while the Celtics dropped the young Philadelphia 76ers in 5 games despite a roster without superstars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
Game 1 fires off at 3:30 a.m. (Philippine time) on Monday, May 14.
(LOOK: 2018 NBA conference finals schedule, Philippine time)
Here are the numbers that you need to know heading into the clash of the East’s top rival franchises:
LeBron James is the Cavs’ main wrecking ball aspiring to headline his 8th straight NBA Finals. If his team succeeds in eliminating the Celtics, James will just be the 6th player in league history to achieve this feat, and the first to do it in more than 50 years. The other 5 players, interestingly, were all part of the team currently standing in his way: Bill Russell (10), Tom Heinsohn (9), Sam Jones (9), K.C. Jones (8) and Frank Ramsey (8).
Eight is also the number of years that the Celtics have waited since their last NBA Finals appearance in 2010. Coincidentally, they set their historic Finals clash with ultimate rival Los Angeles Lakers by defeating James and the Cavaliers in the East finals that year. In the offseason following the Celtics’ loss to the Lakers in 7 grueling Finals games, James made his infamous “Decision,” taking his talents to South Beach in Miami.
LeBron James was not alone in the Cavs’ sweep of the Raptors. One of the unsung heroes of that series was Kevin Love, who averaged 20.5 points per game compared to just 11.4 in their first-round tussle with the Indiana Pacers.
As a result, it took Cleveland 7 games to put the pesky Pacers to bed. With Love delivering as advertised against the Raptors in the semis, it only took 4 games.
Brad Stevens has been lauded by many analysts as a coaching genius for steering his Celtics all the way to the East finals with just a bunch of rookies and sophomores like Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown. However, the 41-year old received zero vote for the National Basketball Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year Award, which went to the Raptors’ now-ex coach Dwane Casey.
Stevens, who brushed off the snub by saying that every other coach deserved it more than him, is now 4 wins away from the NBA Finals. Casey is now unemployed.
In the absence of Kyrie Irving, reserve guard Terry Rozier has stepped up in an unexpectedly big way for the Celtics, averaging 18.2 points so far in the playoffs with no sign of slowing down. The 6-foot-2 guard is the latest example of a breakout player drafted outside of the lottery by Celtics general manager Danny Ainge. Others include Tony Allen, Avery Bradley, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins, who have all enjoyed long careers so far in the league.
Sticking with the Celtics’ young guns, 20-year-old Jayson Tatum has scored at least 20 points in 7 straight playoff games, culminating with a 25-point outing in Game 5’s ouster of the Sixers. This season’s 3rd overall pick just needs to score at least 20 in the next 4 contests to break the rookie record set by Lew Alcindor in 1970.
To those who don’t know, Alcindor is more famously known as the sky hook master Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who still holds the record for most total points in NBA history (38,387).
There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.