The Boston-Philadelphia series featured a few other betting oddities: Despite being the higher seed and holding home-court advantage, the Celtics opened as an underdog in all five games. However, the road team will be the favorite once again. When Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward eventually return, guess what? 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.
Much has changed since August 22, when the Cavs traded superstar Kyrie Irving to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets' 2018 first-round draft pick, and a 2020 second-round draft pick.
All that didn't help the Celtics one bit in the 2017 conference finals. They've been to The Finals three straight years.
Do the Celtics have or need an answer for LeBron James?
But here they are, getting ready for Game 1 Sunday afternoon in TD Garden, where the Green Machine is a ideal 7-0 in the postseason after a seven-game playoff series win over the Milwaukee Bucks, then a 4-1 series victory over the favored Philadelphia 76ers.
Brown said any player the 76ers acquired would have to fit with the 76ers' two stars. Interestingly enough, the Cavaliers are facing the same exact teams in the same exact order of last year's playoff run.
"More than his game, he's a great kid", James said. Curry is No. 3 with 329-in only 79 playoff games.
On the other end, with Simmons as the only player who could create from the perimeter, the Celtics opted to basically put the Sixers shooters in a stranglehold. As a result, the Celtics have huge pressure to start the Eastern Conference Finals on a strong note.
A year ago, the Celtics were the top seed in the East, while the Cavs were No. 2 and still had Kyrie Irving wearing No. 2. Rozier scored 24 points as the Celtics defeated the 76ers 114-112. Even though it was a sweep, the games seemed to go better for the C's as they lost by double digits only once. Cleveland, Boston, Houston and Golden State raced to quick series victories, losing just three games between them.
Both teams are in the middle of the pack in playoff scoring. The two-time MVP averaged 19.6 points on 13.4 shots in four playoff games, and he should be back to the Curry of old after getting another week of rest in between the second round and the conference finals.
"The Warriors are going to have to raise their game a couple notches to beat the Rockets". Constantly involving him on pick and rolls, and forcing him to chase after quicker players are the best methods to attack James on defense.
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.
On paper, this looks like a series that can go the distance.
But Celtics are well-positioned to stop him with an army of players. Where LeBron James is still playing like LeBron James, the Celtics have found heroics from unexpected places throughout these playoffs, specifically rookie Jayson Tatum. Simmons then followed it up with a lazy pass to Embiid leading to an Al Horford steal, basically sealing the game. However, he will be in the lineup.
Throw in notorious Celtics killer Kevin Love and this figures to be a challenging task for Boston. He only had two points in 17 minutes of action.
One of them, Jaylen Brown, knows what's coming.