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Brad Stevens 'Non-Committal' on Celtics' Starting Lineup vs. LeBron James, Cavs

13 May 2018

This season's playoff run has been very different than that of last season.

The Celtics lost Gordon Hayward to a broken leg against the Cavaliers in the season opener.

WITH his comical facial accessory, it seemed destined that Philadelphia superstar Joel Embiid was going to become the masked villain of the National Basketball Association playoffs - and in the eyes of the Boston Celtics' dressing room that's exactly what he became.

With the Cavs series on tap, Vegas remains down on the Celtics. Because he can't beat LeBron James in the playoffs.

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Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James has had plenty of good and bad moments in his career against the Boston Celtics. He is hurting opponents from every area on the court. Tristan Thompson missed 29 games with injuries. In Game 3, James scored 38, including his nearly comical game-winning runner that may force Toronto to change the direction of its entire organization. That's about 65 percent of the points scored just by those three players. We understand he's gonna make some insane plays.

Coach Brad Stevens said this group has never stopped playing together despite all the challenges they've faced. James' production obscures the rest of the playoff field.

Meanwhile, James isn't buying into the chatter about how his squad will overwhelm the Celtics.

"My size", he told Celtics.com Friday afternoon following Celtics practice in Waltham, Massachusetts. Because they're on TV all the time, we're watching them every night, just like everybody else is. The over/under point total for Game 1 is sitting at 204. The Rockets, who host Golden State in Game 1 on Monday, are at 12/5. Cleveland is a -300 favorite - bet $300 to win $100 - to win the series.

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But there are a number of players who have height, length and power in this league, so there must be something else that allows him to stand apart. Love averaged 20.5 points per game in the second round, shooting almost 48% from the field. That mixed with the inexperience of executing in close games against a good team in the later rounds of the playoffs really showed. Right now, I just love to see him be confident. If Love is able to shake free and hit threes, or make Horford pick up some fouls in the post, the Cavs become much, much scarier. Morris began the game guarding LeBron in the most recent matchup between these two teams back in February, and I'd expect him to defend The King for the majority of this series.

Toronto had played a lung-busting 14 games in 2016 before they finally met the Cavs, who'd had eight days between series to rest and rehabilitate. "James" teams have won their past six playoff games in Boston going back to that game, considered one of his all-time great performances. "They're communicating with us daily, and Johan (Bilsborough, the Celts' director of sports science) has been there two or three times". "He's Boston's safety net". Something will have to give in this series. Same goes for the Pacers, who have seen their season end against James five of the past seven years, and the Hawks, who were swept by James in 2015 (when they won 60 games) and '16 before blowing up their roster. He's out. Shane Larkin sprained his left shoulder in Game 4 against Philadelphia and won't be ready for this series.

"Me and Ben have a lot of room to grow", Embiid said. "They was like, "Hood, that's not really a distraction" because of everything that they've been through this year", he said.

"I want to be a leader". His four losses came against great teams: the 64-win Detroit Pistons in 2006; the 66-win Boston Celtics in 2008; the 59-win Orlando Magic in 2009; and the 56-win Celtics in 2010. The Celtics prefer an underdog mentality anyway, right?

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Brad Stevens 'Non-Committal' on Celtics' Starting Lineup vs. LeBron James, Cavs