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Staff Picks: Eastern Conference Finals

Shannon

Shannon McKeown

Prediction: Cavaliers in 6

The Eastern Conference Finals will be more competitive than the Western counterpart, but we're still looking at a largely one-sided affair with the Cavs being the heavy favorite. LeBron James has elevated his game to another level this postseason and he will carry the Cavs to earn his seventh consecutive Finals appearance. The only advantage the Celtics hold is home court, but that won't be enough to steal more than a game or two.

Ken

Ken Crites

Prediction: Celtics in 7

Rationale: Every other dude is going to say “Cavs in 5”, so I’m not going to waste your time, precious reader, repeating the what the so-called intelligentsia view as an inevitable fate. The Celtics have home court advantage. Kelly Olynyk has finally turned into the dominant force Danny Ainge foresaw four years ago (watch those shoulders, Kevin Love). Isaiah Thomas is going to play every quarter like it’s the fourth quarter. Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart will apply their standard bulldog defense and shut down Kyrie Irving. LeBron James will average a triple-double but will pass out from exhaustion trying to keep up with a suddenly confident Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown. All seven games will go to overtime, granting IT another five minutes of lights out King Of The Fourth play. Secret weapon Terry Rozier will expose the old legs of 32-year-old Deron Williams. Amir Johnson and Tristan Thompson will endlessly bully each other, allowing Horford to own the elbow on offense. (OK, that’s all I got. I’m not convinced, either.)



Olynyk’s 26 points stand out even more when you consider the Bullets, er, Wizards eked out all of five points from their bench in Game 7. Last night was rough. I grew up a Bullets fan, but switched to the Celtics when we moved to Vermont in 2003. What, you thought my above rationale was unbiased?

Nick

Nick Whalen

Prediction: Cavaliers in five

Last season, the Cavs didn’t lose a game at home in the playoffs until the Finals, but they had the benefit of opening each series in Cleveland. This feels a little bit like the Hawks series in 2015. Technically, Atlanta was the higher seed, but no one was surprised when the Cavs, playing without Kevin Love, tore through the Hawks in four games. The Celtics are much deeper and better defensively than that Hawks team was, however, so I think they’ll be able to steal one of the first two games at home. Cleveland has breezed through Rounds 1 and 2 with Kyrie Irving shooting less than 40 percent from the field and just 28 percent from three. The fact that the Cavs have the best offense in the playoffs, even with Irving’s struggles, doesn’t feel like a good omen for Boston. If Irving breaks out of his slump, Cleveland’s offense becomes even more lethal.

James
James Anderson

Prediction: Cavaliers in four

I would have said Cavs in five, but I think LeBron was properly annoyed by The Kelly Olynyk Game and the excitement it brought to that crowd in Boston. Given his annoyance, I think he will be sure not to drop one of the first two games on the road, and we know the Celtics aren't winning in Cleveland.

Joel

Joel Bartilotta

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are on a crash course for a spectacular Finals rematch, and there's simply no other way it'll be. Cleveland is going to take care of the Celtics in five games, as the Celtics simply can't match up with the champs. The Cavaliers showed that in the regular season, winning three of four games by a margin of 31 points. It's been like that since LeBron re-arrived in Cleveland, with the Cavs defeating the Celtics in nine of their last 11 games dating back to the 2015 Eastern Conference Playoffs.

Ben

Ben Miller

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5

Despite making it to the Eastern Conference Finals and grabbing the No. 1 pick of the 2017 NBA Draft in consecutive days, the fun ends there for the Celtics. They stand no match against a full strength LeBron James and company. The Cavs took three-of-four games during the regular season, with their only loss coming without Kevin Love. The Celtics were one of the worst teams rebounding the ball during the regular season, so Tristan Thompson and Love are going to have a field day on the boards. When you add that to how well James has been playing, the Celtics are in trouble. I'll still give Boston one win at home, considering a sweep in the Eastern Conference Finals isn't commonplace. Cavs in five.

DJ

DJ Trainor

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5

Yes, the Cavaliers have an on/off switch, and yes, they flicked it up at approximately 3:04PM Eastern Standard Time on April 15. Barring an injury to LeBron, the Celtics have seemingly used up all their luck on a Kelly Olynyk Game 7 and don't stand much of a chance surviving past Game 5 in this series. Of course, they'll fight and claw just like they've done all season, but we all know that having a 5’9” point guard flanked by below-average shooters is not a recipe for success against Cleveland. I'm just hoping the Cavaliers will change their mantra from #DefendTheLand to #DontTouchTheSwitch -- maybe that's wishful thinking.

Alex Barutha

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5

The Celtics spent the first round of the playoffs dropping their opening two games at home to a Bulls team that accidentally found itself in the postseason after some post-All-Star-break adjustments -- namely, freeing Rajon Rondo from exile and having Dwyane Wade break something in his elbow. Boston may have actually only made it to the second round because Rondo suffered a fractured thumb and torn ligaments in his wrist, loosening his grip on the series. Then, when the Celtics made it to the second round, they played chicken with the Wizards for seven games. Meanwhile, The Cavaliers swept the first two rounds and LeBron averaged 34.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.5 blocks per game while going up against "LeBron stoppers" Paul George, P.J. Tucker, and (honorary mention) DeMarre Carroll. I give the Celtics one game at home, where Isaiah Thomas becomes unstoppable and the combination of poor souls the Celtics throw at LeBron limit him to his season averages.