NBA

How the Boston Celtics will try to slow down LeBron James and other key questions in Eastern Conference Finals

Jay Asser 13:17 13/05/2018
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Marcus Morris is expected to spend time guarding LeBron James this series.

Can LeBron be slowed down?

Stopping LeBron James is a foolhardy mission. But slowing him down is possible, albeit incredibly difficult.

Boston have the bodies to at least make James work for his points, with the likes of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Semi Ojeleye and Marcus Smart more than capable defenders.

The Celtics, however, could be better off letting James get his and trying to shut down everyone around him. James is capable of averaging 40 – hell 50 even – for a series, but that may play into Boston’s hands.

Who will guard Tatum?

It’s incredible he’s already being discussed like this considering his age and lack of experience, but Tatum poses a real problem for Clevleand’s defence.

The Philadelphia 76ers had no answer for him and the Cavaliers may be in the same predicament as they’re not exactly flush with wing defenders outside James, who would rather roam as a free safety.

Much of the onus will fall to J.R. Smith, who can be hit-or-miss with his defence. If Smith isn’t at his best, Boston will wield Tatum over and over again.

Tatum

Will Thompson be a disruptor?

Tristan Thompson has killed the Celtics, and Al Horford specifically, repeatedly when the teams have played over the years.

He has a knack for crashing the offensive glass and earning his team extra possessions, while also being a pest against Horford defensively.

The good news for Boston is they have a big body in Aron Baynes this time around to help neutralise Thompson whenever he’s on the court, but it still won’t be an easy task.

Will Love match Horford?

Kyrie Irving is no longer around, which means Kevin Love has to be a worthy sidekick to LeBron and play like he did for most of the Toronto series, in which he averaged 20.5 points.

If Love isn’t scoring, there’s not a whole lot else he’s bringing to the table, which isn’t the case with Horford, who’s a playmaker and the quarterback of the defence.

To take the burden off LeBron, Love needs to make Horford work and come close to matching his impact.

Love

Can Korver stay on the floor?

Expect the Celtics to go at Kyle Korver early and often in an attempt to play him off the floor. That’s what Boston did with success against J.J. Redick in the second round, forcing Philadelphia’s hand.

Because everyone in the Celtics’ lineup can score, Korver will have to hold his own in the pick-and-roll and in post-ups situations.

He’s been extremely important for Cleveland’s offence so Boston will do everything they can to render him unplayable.

Prediction

Boston are more balanced, better coached and the deeper team, but Cleveland have LeBron.The Celtics are too tough and cohesive to go down easy, but the king stays the king.

Cavaliers in 7

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