Home court ad­van­tage?

Favourite Cava­liers open East fi­nals on road ver­sus un­der­dog Celtics

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY KYLE HIGHTOWER

The Celtics are head­ing to the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals with the No. 1 seed and home court ad­van­tage. But they are still very much un­der­dogs to the de­fend­ing cham­pion Cleve­land Cava­liers.

That’s be­cause through­out this sea­son the con­ver­sa­tion hasn’t so much been about which team would come out of the East, as much as how much re­sis­tance any team could of­fer the Cavs.

“We’re not re­ally fo­cused on the out­side noise and what they think we’re go­ing to... We’re just go­ing to take care of busi­ness as we go.”

Bos­ton Celtics’ Isa­iah Thomas

So far it hasn’t been much, with Cleve­land post­ing backto-back sweeps in the first two rounds.

Af­ter wait­ing more than a week for an op­po­nent, the Cavs have their lat­est challenger. It’s a Bos­ton team that many wrote off af­ter the Celtics fell into a 0-2, first-round hole against the Bulls.

Now, fresh off a Game 7 semi­fi­nal win over the Wash­ing­ton Wizards , the Celtics in many ways find them­selves play­ing with house money as they pre­pare to host a LeBron Jamesled Cleve­land team car­ry­ing all the ex­pec­ta­tions into tonight’s Game 1 in Bos­ton.

“We’ve been counted out since I’ve been here, so it’s noth­ing new,” Celtics guard Isa­iah Thomas said. “We’re not re­ally fo­cused on the out­side noise and what they think we’re go­ing to... We’re just go­ing to take care of busi­ness as we go.” That’s eas­ier said than done. Bos­ton has yet to beat the Cavs this sea­son with Cleve­land at full strength.

The Celtics’ lone vic­tory came on March 1, with Kevin Love out af­ter mi­nor left knee surgery. Cleve­land won the other games by a com­bined 35 points, in­clud­ing a 114-91 romp on April 5.

Still, James re­spects not only the Celtics, but also their hal­lowed his­tory.

“There’s only two win­ningest fran­chises in the his­tory of the game, the Lak­ers and the Celtics,” James said. “Just re­spect that and look out up in the stands and see the ban­ners, see the jer­seys re­tired and things of that na­ture. You re­spect what the his­tory has cre­ated at that point.”

Thomas has spo­ken sev­eral times this post-sea­son about want­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence the make or break mo­ments that only the play­offs can pro­vide. He has his chance against a team that both he and coach Brad Stevens have ac­knowl­edged is better than it was even in April.

“That’s where LeBron is so good,” Stevens said. “I think that you can’t throw him one look, be­cause he will even­tu­ally pick that look apart.”

AP PHOTO

In this March 1 file photo, Cleve­land Cava­liers for­ward LeBron James (left) lines up a dunk against Bos­ton Celtics cen­ter Al Hor­ford dur­ing the third quar­ter of an NBA game in Bos­ton.

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