Why LeBron James Believes Brad Stevens Hype Has Been 'Overblown' This Season

We chronicled their roller coaster ride for you at the start of the playoffs, but we'll go over it again because, well, SOUP!

In what could be irony for the Celtics, they reached the Conference Finals without Irving anyway, only to face the team who gave them that same player meant to help defeat the very team he was traded from. And yet, here the Celtics still stand. But focusing too much on the absences of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward distracts from the truth: Stevens always has gotten the most out of what he's had to work with, and this season is just another example. "(Boston executive) Danny Ainge has done a good job of getting guys in that fit that mold of Celtics basketball and they've been playing well". They're related on Lue's grandfather's side of the family.

It's a testament to a program they've been nurturing since he took over as coach five years ago. The Celtics, meanwhile, have a more versatile team than previous year, but they also have 10 healthy players at this point. Marcus Smart had thumb surgery and the Celtics lost Irving, who needed more knee surgery and won't get a crack at dethroning James. Tatum has shown great poise and looks primed to have another great series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. "Those past experiences are in the past, and it's a new year, a new team, feels different, looks different, and we're going out there to make the outcome different".

With the Cavs series on tap, Vegas remains down on the Celtics.

"He's the rock", James told Cavs Nation after Friday's practice.

Over the years, since the days of Bill Russell (1957-69, i.e. 11 National Basketball Association titles in 13 years) John Havlicek-Dave Cowens-JoJo White (titles in 1974 and 1976) and Larry Bird (titles in 1981-84-86), the Celtics were invariably the title favorites - and they delivered.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Overblown? Despite what most people think, Houston had the sixth best defensive efficiency rating in the league this year at 103.8. "I remember the first time we played them, I was so nervous", he said. Cleveland became the first team in league history to win two road games in the same series by at least 30 points, and it also became the first franchise to never trail on the road in a playoff series.

I would expect Mbah A Moute to get a lot of playing time off the bench against Kevin Durant as well.

Actually, they may already be that. James has since taken his game to another level, though, and enters this series averaging 27.5 points and 9.1 assists per game this postseason.

Rozier, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, has been on James' radar since the Celtics guard was in high school.

It is actually a return bout between the two for this year's 2018 Eastern Conference trophy, with Cleveland prevailing last year before relinquishing its crown to Golden State in the NBA Finals via a 4-1 rout. He's averaging 16.9 points in the playoffs and shooting better than 41 percent from 3-point range.

Brown was reinserted back into the starting lineup Wednesday for the first time since he injured his right hamstring last round in Boston's Game 7 win over Milwaukee.

It left the 76ers 2.4 seconds to go for a game-winner, but Simmons' heave down the court was intercepted by Smart. There's been moments where I've been on a team where there's a decent lead and then they make one shot and the place just erupts. They'll have five guys out there at all times that can play. We've been through a lot. In Game 2, he scored 43 points and dished 14 assists, connecting on turnaround fadeaway after turnaround fadeaway, gleefully torturing the Raptors toward their inevitable demise.

The Cavs, well, they're fully healthy. They're also coming off a sweep of the top-seeded Raptors.

  • Arturo Norris