The Cleveland Cavaliers won three of four games against the Boston Celtics during the regular season, averaging 116 points in those meetings. Perhaps the playoffs will be a different animal, but the Celtics will be challenged in a number of areas.
We went looking through our video-review data and other numbers to find some notable items to key in on. Here’s a look at some of what we found.
Which LeBron goes to the line?
LeBron James shot a career-low 67 percent from the free throw line this season and that carried over into the first-round series with the Pacers, when he shot 55 percent. But against the Raptors, he got back on track, making 83 percent (45-of-54).
If James struggles early, it might compel the Celtics to foul him when he goes inside.
James is averaging 15.5 points per game in the paint this season, best in the NBA and the only player remaining in double figures.
At game’s end, you’d figure he’d be a guarantee, but James was 4-of-10 from the foul line when the score was within five points with less than five minutes remaining in the first two rounds.
Scoring on Kyrie Irving
Irving is not considered a strong defender, so the Celtics could take advantage there.
If the Celtics can get matchups of Irving guarding Isaiah Thomas, look out. Thomas shot 46 percent (25-of-54) from 3-point range against the Wizards.
Converting turnovers into points
The Celtics will have to slow Cleveland down. The Cavaliers scored 34 points in transition that came off Raptors turnovers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. They were 10-of-11 from the field and 13-of-13 from the free throw line.
The Celtics totaled 35 transition points off turnovers in their seven games against the Wizards, making 12 of 23 shots.
Who limits the open looks?
Limiting open looks is key for any team, but it could be an even bigger factor in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Cavaliers have made 55 percent of their uncontested 3-pointers this postseason, best in the NBA. The Bucks, who are already eliminated, are the only other team over 50 percent (52 percent). The Celtics defended the 3-pointer well in the last three games against the Wizards, holding them to 27 percent shooting (22-of-82).
The Celtics have attempted 73 more uncontested shots than any other team this postseason. They’ve actually been below average making those open looks (57 percent, league average is 58 percent), but the sheer volume makes up for it. Problem is, when the shot is contested, the Celtics make only 40 percent of their tries, which is worst among the four remaining teams.