Boston Celtics: 5 keys to conference finals vs. Cavaliers

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio - LeBron James will open his eighth straight Eastern Conference finals Sunday with banners hanging above him at TD Garden honoring four Boston Celtics legends who are the only players to appear in more consecutive NBA Finals than the Cleveland Cavaliers star.

Brown noted that James is going to get his points, but the Celtics can't let him take over games. "Sometimes you're not tall enough to block his shot and things like that, but you can try to affect his shot as much as you can by showing hands, being long off the ball and being active, showing bodies and stuff like that".

"I've been fortunate to play with two great franchises in my career and played with some really, really good players", James told reporters Friday.

Of the 68 teams that have taken 1-0 series leads in the conference finals, 57 have gone on to make the NBA Finals. LeBron played all 82 games and the Cavs lost one more game than they did a year ago - he missed eight games last season and the team lost all eight. Stevens didn't get one vote from his peers for "Coach of the Year". "It's a sports town, you look at the Patriots, you look at the Bruins, you look at the Red Sox". It's just a sports town.

Boston is without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, but James has a ton of respect for the Celtics as an opponent regardless. "I think our guys have done a good job doing that".

In spite of the tragedies - including some minor injuries to key players Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown - head coach Brad Stevens managed to get past more talented opponents in the first two rounds of the plafairytaleston's fairy tale success leads one to imagine a full-strength Celtics team with two of their best players surrounded by those who are now keeping the squad afloat.

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"I think it has been a little bit overblown this year because of the names that has been out".

While Stevens deserves credit in James' eyes, focusing too much on the absences of Irving and Hayward means Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and the rest of the Celtics don't get their proper due.

"There's been a lot that's happened throughout the season with us and for them", Cavs forward Kevin Love said. So we can talk from like potential, but he's been out since the first quarter of Game 1 in Cleveland.

Even with all that was mentioned above, including home-court advantage, defeating a Cavs team that appears to be peaking at just the right time will be a tall task. Anyway, I'll say it again: Ty Lue is underrated as a coach.

James and his teammates know they'll have their ears rung as well. James, who famously left Cleveland in 2010 and signed with the Miami Heat, could bolt again if he feels the Cavs and 76ers are both trending in different directions.

"That's one of the things he said when I first got here, that I was one of the guys they felt as though could guard LeBron", Morris said. "He's been a confident kid then when I watched him at Shaker (Shaker Heights, an eastern suburb of Cleveland), he's a confident player now". "I'm sure he'll talk to our players individually". "He's gotten better and better. "(Expletive), I think IN did a great job against Cleveland IN that series. As usual, the Lakers are among those linked to the superstar, potentially able to woo him with young talent, cap space for two star additions and the opportunity to live in LA where James could continue growing his business empire. Maybe Marcus Smart gets his chance. "So he's definitely a helluva safety net that Boston has". But when the Celtics reloaded their roster over the summer, there seemed to be a pretty clear mandate to collect defenders against the new crop of big wings who can handle and facilitate - players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ben Simmons.

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