Celtics embracing underdog role against LeBron, Cavaliers

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(ABC) for the Cleveland Cavaliers who are set to battle the Boston Celtics for the chance to play for an NBA Championship. Not allowing them to get off clean looks for most of the series. He was officially shut down in April with a knee injury.

The Boston Celtics are perfectly content with the familiar role of underdog heading into the Eastern Conference finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"When you look at a guy like Jeff Green being able to come off the bench and be able to play a bunch of different positions for them, when you have a guy like Korver, Smith, Hill standing around LeBron and Love and being able to play off actions, play off flares, do those type of things and then guys like Clarkson and Hood and Osman come in and do what they do, it's a good team", Stevens said.

It also puts into perspective the criticism that some Celtics players had for Embiid after the final buzzer. The Celtics were the best defensive team in the league during the regular season, and facing a Cavs offense that is firing on all cylinders will be a great challenge for them. "Despite all the circumstances of guys getting hurt with Kyrie out, with Gordon being out for the whole year, they just keep plugging guys in and keep playing". Thomas, damaged goods with a mangled hip, never fit in the lineup or meshed in the Cavs' turmoil-filled locker room. This was a process to get to the conference finals, we didn't. Boston returns only four players from last season's roster - Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart - and they're without All-Star acquisitions Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. But four times in the last seven years, a team has dropped Game 1 in this round and made The Finals anyway. The last time they were in that situation, the Celtics won the game - and, in a result that defied the Vegas odds in a huge way - won the series in five games against the Philadelphia 76ers.

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The Celtics closed out the 76ers with a 114-112 win in Boston Wednesday night. They've got a lot of great young talent. The series that everyone wanted and expected during a convoluted offseason has come to fruition. LeBron James is still the best player in the series, and he might be better than he's ever been. "If that's the goal - and for me and us it is - then that's the answer I give". His points per game average is the second-highest by a Celtics rookie in a single playoff series in franchise history, trailing only Tommy Heinsohn, who averaged 24.0 points per game in a series in 1957. Altman didn't stop there, dealing Crowder and Derrick Rose to Utah for Rodney Hood, sending Dwyane Wade back to Miami and acquiring point guard George Hill from Sacramento.

"King James" would share fourth on the all-time list by reaching his eighth consecutive NBA Finals, two shy of Bill Russell's record run from the 1960s Celtics dynasty team and trailing nine in a row by Russell's team-mates Sam Jones and Tommy Heinsohn.

If the Warriors successfully defend their National Basketball Association title and go back-to-back, it'll be the franchise's sixth time as the last team standing - and would tie Chicago for the third-most championships in league history, behind the Celtics and Lakers. So far this postseason, James is averaging 34.3 points per game to go along with 9.4 rebounds and 9 assists. The over/under point total for Game 1 is sitting at 204. "I think it's been designed that way so guys can just develop and learn as they go", Horford said.

Celtics center Aron Baynes should have been called for a shooting foul when Sixers big man Embiid attempted a game-tying layup with 14.6 seconds remaining.