Hooley: The LeBron Advantage is the best advantage

posted by Bruce Hooley -

We love sports because it gives us the unpredictable and the unexpected. But sometimes it gives us exactly what we predict. And if it's your team that does that, it's a beautiful thing.

The Cavaliers entered the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday at Boston as heavy favorites, even though the Celtics own the No. 1 overall seed in the East and have the home-court advantage in the series.

Nothing that happened in Game 1 contradicted the consensus opinion of the experts that Boston is woefully overmatched. LeBron James had 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and the Cavs coasted to a 117-104 victory in a game they never trailed.

Boston had no answer for LeBron or Kevin Love in the lane, where Love scored 32 and grabbed 12 rebounds. Tristan Thompson was just as dominant under the basket, scoring a career-playoff-high 20 points to go with nine rebounds, including six at the offensive end.

Boston will make adjustments for Game 2 on Friday, but it's hard to envision a way this series becomes competitive given what the Cavs didn't do in Game 1.

Kyle Korver show just 1-of-6 from 3 point range. Kyrie Irving scored just 11 points. Channing Frye had just 3 points off the bench.

Those are just three places the Cavs can go for more scoring if they need to adjust to Boston's adjustments on Friday night.

But the Celtics can adjust or tweak what they're doing defensively all they want. No amount of juggling Xs or Os will give them a solution to the one overwhelming problem they have. It's the same problem Indiana and Toronto had, and the same problem Golden State or San Antonio will have in the Finals.

No one has an answer for a supremely-motivated, fully-rested, completely-focused LeBron James.

James scored 10 times in the lane in the first half of Game 1. Boston's crowd tried booing him every time he touched the ball at the outset. That lasted about two minutes, because once Celtic fans saw James victimize Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart and whoever else Boston matched up against him, Celtic faithful realized the gravity of the task in front of them.

The only vestige of a comeback Boston mustered brought them within 17 points to start the fourth quarter. That's when the Cavs switched to a smaller lineup, with James at center, to match up with the Celtics on the perimeter and prevent them from getting closer by shooting three-pointers.

I was hesitant to embrace the predictions of the Cavaliers winning this series in four or five games. I was cautious because Cleveland swept Indiana by just 16 combined points in those four victories, and benefitted in the Toronto sweep from the absence of Kyle Lowry in Games 3 and 4.

I suppose it's possible the Celtics were simply suffering a Game 7 hangover from their win over Washington on Monday night and could find their legs in time to make this series competitive.

I wouldn't count on it, though.

I'm starting to get the sense that the Cavs are salty over the assumptions across the league that this NBA title -- their NBA title -- is Golden State's to win. That the Warriors' addition of Kevin Durant makes a Warriors coronation a foregone conclusion. That without Draymond Green's suspension or Andrew Bogut's injury last year in the Finals, the Cavs wouldn't have come back from a 3-1 deficit.

LeBron will never say that...not in advance of playing Golden State, anyway. But if that's what's driving him, and in turn what's driving the Cavs -- because everything they do flows off his energy -- then that's a very good thing for Cleveland fans who don't want this team to stop at one title.

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