Get ready for another Celtics-Cavalier series
Two game-winners, two playoff MVPs and two coaches getting it done.
Yep, I’m sniffing a revival of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup marketing campaign – you know “two great tastes … “ – when I look at Saturday’s decisive Game 3’s in the NBA’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
It’s now just a formality – the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, each up 3-0 in their respective series, will again battle for the conference title, just as soon as they dot the I’s and cross the T’s on the Sixers and Raptors.
No NBA team has ever come back from down 3-0. It ain’t happening here, either.
Each series was clinched in the final seconds on Saturday, the Celtics taking over in overtime when the Cavs stunned Toronto as the buzzer went off in regulation.
The dagger slingers were Al Horford and LeBron James, each putting on a hoop clinic.
First, it was Horford, going deep into his tool box in a post-up undressing of Philly’s Robert Covington.
Horford posted, sealed, caught and scored at the buzzer, a move that had Covington perplexed and overwhelmed. I swear the courtside microphone caught the former Tennessee State star murmuring either “Mama” or “Uncle.” Perhaps both.
And then there’s King James, with the score tied and eight seconds left, calmly taking the inbounds pass in the backcourt, meandering calmly up the court, apart from the frenzy as time wore down then taking a wrong-foot, one-handed righty floater from the left side that banked in cleanly as time expired.
Two things here.
You didn’t need any mics to hear LeBron call/scream “BACKBOARD!” on his release.
And I’ll bet that James chose to bank it for one reason only.
At the 3:30, the Raptors appeared dead, down seven and sinking, with the shot clock running down and somehow Toronto’s OG Anunoby threw up a 27-foot bomb that hit the backboard, rimmed out hard, hit the backboard again and rattled home to give them a pulse.
I imagine King LeBron wagging his Motumbo-like finger and telling Toronto, “Live by the banker … die by the banker.”
But honestly, as great as LeBron is, currently pushing toward Michael Jordan’s throne as the best basketball player ever, and as tremendous as “Enigmatic Al” has been while strapping the Celtics on his back this postseason, it was the coaches who deserved top billing on Saturday.
Brad Stevens or as he is known in these parts as “St. Bradley of Indianapolis” and Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue deserve Belichick-worthy praise for their on-court manipulations.
Both were subtle and both were spectacular.
First Stevens. Here’s a guy who was roasted here, and deserved to be when he chose Marcus Morris to try the potential game-winner in Game 4 at Milwaukee. What a brain cramp.
Stevens last-second scheme to isolate Covington on Horford in the paint was priceless.
With no help, Covington might as well have been an orange traffic cone. Any coach who doesn’t steal that sideline out-of-bounds play simply doesn’t care.
And then there is Lue, the guy who gets zero respect anywhere. He’s simply a figure head, right? LeBron is the Cavs’ real coach.
With eight seconds left Lue chose to inbound the ball in the backcourt instead of the traditional free bump up to halfcourt.
ABC’s Hubie Brown, complete with toothpicks propping open the eyelids, was incredulous in strafing Lue right up until the amazing James hit the floater.
Lue gets crushed publicly, but starting in the fullcourt spread the Raptors and allowed James nothing but space. There isn’t a defender on Earth who can stop him one-on-one.
He owes his coach, though. We all do.
With the Celts and Cavs meeting again in the Eastern Finals, the NBA playoffs are going to be twice as nice.