Category Archives: NBA

Can Anyone Dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference?

LeBron James is currently in a spot that he is used to being in. That spot being at the top of the Eastern Conference. With James and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers owning the 1 seed in the East since his return to Cleveland last season it begs the question; can anyone beat LeBron and the Cavs in the Eastern Conference?

The easy answer to this question, and what the “expert” analysts would say, (looking at you ESPN) is “no.” Teams with LeBron James have made the NBA Finals each of the last five years (2011-2014 with the Heat and last season with Cleveland). So why wouldn’t this years Cavaliers team be the beasts of the East once again? Well let’s look at the team currently sitting just two games out of the lead for the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors. Toronto has been a team on the rise for a few seasons now. They won 48 and 49 games in the past two seasons respectively, but came up short in the first round of the playoffs both times. Just a couple weeks after the All-Star break, this years Raptors team already has 40 wins on the season. As the standings sit as they are right now, this would land them the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. This years Pacers team has been streaky. If led by Paul George, they can catch fire at the right time, causing a potential upset and a third straight first round exit for the Raptors. But let me tell you why I don’t think that will happen…

This years Raptors team has its best roster since the Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady days of the early 2000s. DeMar DeRozan has emerged as a legitimate star in the NBA this season. He averages a little over 23 points per game and along with the other All-Star Raptor, Kyle Lowry, this team has a solid backcourt. Lowry averages 21.6 points a game with 6.4 assists and a league leading 2.2 steals per game. Along with their two stars they have a big man in Jonas Valanciunas who can protect the rim and put up some decent offensive numbers. They also acquired DeMarre Carroll this season. Carroll was a huge piece of last years’ Atlanta Hawks team that went all the way to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to the Cavs in four games. The thing all of these players have in common is their ability to play defense. The Raptors are top 5 in the NBA in points per game allowed letting up just 97.8 PPG. And along with the four players listed above, they have a player in Bismack Biyombo who can protect the paint and who averages 8 rebounds per game while only playing an average of about 22 minutes.

Let’s go back to the Cavs real quick. Sure the Raptors have defense, but how can you stop an offense with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love? These are three player who average 24.9, 19, and 15.9 points per game respectively. And along with these three super stars, they also have big man Tristan Thompson who has emerged as an elite rim protector and rebounder in the NBA. Also, I know I said the defense of Toronto is good, but the Cavaliers let up an even better average of 97.2 points per game to their opponents, placing them third in the NBA. So you may ask, how can the Raptors possibly beat the Cavaliers in a seven game series? The answer is matchups. I LOVE the way the raptors matchup against the Cavs. Let’s go through the lineups, shall we?

We first have the matchup of Kyle Lowry guarding Kyrie Irving. Lowry can be a lockdown perimeter defender and has a knack for taking the ball away on defense. Let’s then look at Kevin Love. As a stretch big man the Raptors are going to need someone who can guard him on the block and behind the three-point line. Though not great defending on the block, Toronto’s Luis Scola should be able to keep Love at bay beyond the arc while getting help down low from his guards and complimentary big men.

Ok, so we know that the Raptors can guard Irving and Love; the Cavs should be no problem then, right? Oh yeah, I forgot about one other guy. LeBron James. Now in his twelfth year in the league I think we’ve all learned you can’t stop the guy completely. But you can slow him down and the Raptors may just have the perfect arsenal to do just that. With an elite defender and above average sized guard in DeMar DeRozan, Toronto has a body that can match up well against the freak athlete that is LeBron. And when DeRozan needs a break, DeMarre Carroll is another guy who is stronger than a lot of guys in the NBA and may be able to slow James down just a little bit. When you take all this into account, if the Raptors and Cavaliers meet in the Eastern Conference Finals then maybe, just maybe, the Toronto Raptors will represent the East in the 2016 NBA Finals.

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Celtics Streak Ends in Cleveland

Brad Stevens, head coach of Boston Celtics during the NBA Regular Season basketball game between Sacramento Kings and Boston Celtics at the Mexico City Arena on December 03, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.

The last time Boston traveled to Cleveland, the Celtics capped off a huge comeback win, scoring eight points in the final eight seconds topped off by an Avery Bradley game winning three pointer. Not only did Bradley’s brilliance shine through, but head coach Brad Stevens orchestrated the perfect play. This time the Celtics were coming into Cleveland on a five game winning streak. Unfortunately, the outcome was different. The top seeded Cavaliers beat the Celtics handily 120-103.

The Celtics jumped out to a quick lead in the first quarter, dominating play and outscoring the Cavs 35-22. Isaiah Thomas and Evan Turner led the way, going 7 of 9 from the field with a combined 16 points, while the Cavs struggled mightily in finding their offensive game with their leading scorer being Timofey Mozgov with 6 points. LeBron and Kyrie failed to lead the charge, and the Cavs seemed to be on their heels for the first 8 minutes of the game. Cleveland found themselves down 18 early, but was able to close the gap by scoring the final five points of the first quarter.

The Cavs, taking their momentum from the end of the first quarter, were able to put together an incredible run, outscoring the Celtics 82-50 from the second quarter to the final 9 minutes of the game. Boston was able to close the gap to 9 with 3 minutes remaining in the game, but failed to put together a solid string of offensive possessions.

The loss ended the Celtics’ 5 game winning streak, but Isaiah Thomas continued his hot pace, scoring 27 points and adding four assists and three rebounds. Jared Sullinger had another impressive outing, recording a double-double 17 points and 13 rebounds. The Cavaliers offense was sparked by a usual suspect, LeBron James. James came just two assists shy of a triple double; scoring 28 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing out eight assists.

LeBron not only had himself another great performance, but he also made history, being the third player along with Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to score at least 10 points in 700 consecutive games.

Pretty elite company.

Looking down the road, the Celtics have a tough schedule, which will surely test how battle tested the Celtics truly are for their push toward the playoffs. With upcoming games against Western Conference powerhouses like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, and Golden State Warriors, the Celtics need to keep grinding if they want to hold onto the third spot in the Eastern Conference.

In regards to their in-conference foes, it might not be the last time we see the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the East being typically weaker than the West, the expectation is that they will find themselves back in the Conference finals. Although the Celtics dropped the last game in the season series and came out on the losing end of 2-1, the Celtics should be excited for their future, proving they can hang with the best.