Something just doesn't feel right about having the second round transpire before the first round expires. Alas, Lord Stern has deemed it so, and I promised predictions. So here is my rundown of the Cavaliers-Celtics second round series.
1. Cavaliers (61-21) vs. 4. Celtics (50-32)
Game 1 Tips: 8:00 EST on TNT
Both teams are looking pretty strong, having dispensed with their respective opponents in five games. That Cleveland prevailed so easily was no surprise, but the Celtics rout of the Heat raised some eyebrows. I said before the first round that the Celtics best shot at winning the series was to wrap it up quickly. They did just that, but showed signs of fatigue, including their now-cursory 4th quarter meltdown in game four.
Dwyane Wade was essentially a one man team. LeBron is a superior player (especially in the playoffs) to Wade, and has a much stronger supporting cast. After a few days of rest, you can expect a little bit of the SuperCeltics we've seen at the beginning of the last two seasons, but this series begins in Cleveland, and I don't see the Cavs giving up home court early.
The Cavaliers have answers for Kevin Garnett, and there's no way Big Baby sneaks up on them. The Celtics aren't going to be able to rely on 44% three point shooting, either. Unless LeBron's elbow is more seriously injured than he is letting on, I don't see a path to Celtic victory.
Player to watch: Shaq. If he plays bigger minutes, he can really shut down Boston's inside game. Does he play hard in an attempt to get his bearings before the big Orlando matchup, or does he take it easy? That will have an impact on the length of this series (though not, likely, the outcome).
Prediction: Cavs in 5. If the Miami series wasn't a mirage, and the Celtics were storing their energy, a la San Antonio, this prediction could be off. But the Cavs were a vastly superior team during the last 50 games of the season, and should be more motivated against tougher competition.