A look at how the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics match up for the Eastern Conference finals playoff series.
1. BOSTON 53-29 (Home: 30-11; Road: 23-18) vs.
2. CLEVELAND 51-31 (Home: 31-10; Road: 20-21)
Season series: Cavaliers, 3-1.
Key stat: Boston boasts the NBA playoffs’ top assist percentage (70.4); Cleveland has led the postseason in three-pointers made per game (14.4) and three-point percentage (43.4).
Outlook: A veteran-laden defending NBA champion is daunting enough without nine rest days to refresh. The Cavaliers were immune to rust in recent years and already quelled concerns about a stumbling regular-season close by posting first- and second-round sweeps. They have the postseason’s top offensive rating and had a higher one than any other team did against Boston this season. Cleveland’s LeBron James, in his seventh consecutive conference finals, is averaging 34.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 2.1 steals in the playoffs with 56% shooting. Boston’s Jae Crowder will be assigned to defend him. James has made 47% of his three-pointers but his passing to a wealth of shooters makes Cleveland’s three-point game lethal. Offensive board-crashing Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love will be a handful for Boston, the postseason’s worst rebounding team. Cleveland will go 18 days between home games with fans ready for Celtics second-round Game 7 hero Kelly Olynyk, who is blamed for Love’s shoulder dislocation in the 2015 playoffs. Boston will need a cape-worthy run from Isaiah Thomas, who averaged 29.5 points against Cleveland this season but will be tested defensively this series.
Prediction: Cavaliers in five.
(Games 5-7 if necessary; Times PDT)
Game 1: Wednesday at Boston, 5:30 p.m.
Game 2: Friday at Boston, 5:30 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday at Cleveland, 5:30 p.m.
Game 4: Tuesday at Cleveland, 5:30 p.m.
Game 5: May 25 at Boston, 5:30 p.m.
Game 6: May 27 at Cleveland, 5:30 p.m.
Game 7: May 29 at Boston, 5:30 p.m.