After all the injuries, the mid-season trades and the rise of new contenders, the end result remains unchanged, and the battle for the East comes down to the same matchup as a year ago: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. the Boston Celtics.
Game 1 is scheduled for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast nationally on ABC. If you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can watch the game live on your computer, phone or streaming device by signing up for one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services:
Hulu With Live TV: In addition to a Netflix-like on-demand streaming library, Hulu now also offers a bundle of live TV channels, including both ABC (live in select markets) and ESPN (meaning Hulu can be used to watch the game on ESPN’s digital platforms). You can sign up for “Hulu with Live TV” right here, and you can then watch a live stream of the game on your computer via the Hulu website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Hulu app.
DirecTV Now: ABC (live in select markets) and ESPN (which means DTV Now can be used to watch the game on ESPN’s digital platforms) are both included in all four of DirecTV Now’s channel packages. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial no matter what package you choose, and you can then watch the game live on your computer via the DirecTV Now website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app.
WatchESPN: If one of the above services doesn’t include ABC live in your market, you can still watch the game on your computer via ESPN.com, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the WatchESPN app. Games on ABC can be watched for free without cable if you have a participating internet service provider (ISP), but even if you don’t have a participating ISP, you can still sign up for one of the above options and then use your Hulu or DirecTV Now credentials to sign in and watch the game on the ESPN platforms.
This year was going to be different.
The Celtics weren’t going to be able to overcome the injuries to Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving and, for the start of the playoffs, Marcus Smart. The Cavaliers didn’t have enough help around LeBron James. This was finally the year the Toronto Raptors, the top seed in the East, were going to exercise their recent postseason demons. Or perhaps The Process was going to yield earlier-than-expected results with the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers.
Boston, tabbed by oddsmakers as the underdog in their series against the Sixers, rolled through in five games. Cleveland, after a tightly-fought seven-game battle against the Indiana Pacers in the first round, steam-rolled the top-seeded Raptors in a dominant sweep.
Now, here we are. LeBron vs. the Celtics in the East finals for the second year in a row, and LeBron vs. the Celtics in the playoffs for the seventh time in his career.
It may seem disrespectful to the rest of the Cavs team to refer to LeBron as one side of the matchup, but that’s just the way it’s been during this postseason. Through 11 playoff games this year, James is averaging 30.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He’s dropped 40-plus four times–all in wins. He’s dished out 10-plus assists four times–three of those coming in wins. He’s hit a pair of buzzer-beaters. He crushed Toronto’s soul with a 15-point third quarter in Game 2. He’s been unstoppable, and that’s despite shooting just 31.1 percent from deep, which is well below his season average of 36.7.
That said, Boston presents an interesting matchup. They held him to 24.0 points per contest in three regular-season games, they are coming off a fantastic defensive series in which they limited Philly to just 103.3 points per 100 possessions, and they have a bevy of different guys (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris) they can throw at LeBron.
It’s an interesting matchup on the other side of the ball, too. Boston can sometimes go stagnant offensively, but Cleveland has struggled on defense all year long. Even in their dismantling of Toronto, they had a 110.1 defensive rating, a poor number that was only hidden because they were near flawless offensively.
Game 1 will provide a good idea of what to expect this series. If the Celtics can somehow slow LeBron down even a little bit, they’ll be in good shape. But if LeBron’s recent tear continues, he’s the one man on the planet capable of covering up all of a team’s flaws.
Source: Heavy Sports