We're looking at every NBA Playoff series through the eyes of both Free Darko. Here's Free Darko's look at the Boston Celtics-Cleveland Cavaliers series. Your author is Dr. Lawyer IndianChief.
I'm sorry Cleveland, but you guys have got to have the least threatening, least homecourt-advantage-giving playoff crowd in this entire field of 16. Yes, I know San Antonio didn't even fill its arena for some of its first round games, and yeah, I know Toronto and Orlando don't exactly bring the noise, but still, you guys take last. It's not your fault; trust me I know. You guys have had to tiptoe around LeBron ever since he denied signing the max contract, not to mention the fact that Cleveland sports fans in general constantly have to hold their collective breath given years of spurning by the Browns, Indians, and Ehlos. Nonetheless, in a toss-up series, home court advantage might just make the difference, and it's going clearly in Boston's favor.
Now that's not to say I don't have a beef with you, Boston fans. Your obnoxiousness has permeated sport culture so thoroughly over the past five years that it's overwhelmingly trite to even diss you. And hell, Mike Bibby already (properly) played the bandwagon card, so I've got nothing else to say. As far as the Celtics themselves, congrats guys, I loved all the jersey-popping and bench-stomping and chest-thumping in game 7, after you finally beat the Hawks in the last game of the series. Kevin Garnett is so intense. Veteran experience is so important. The holy spirit of Dave Cowens has entered the building. The Celtics love playing with each other. Wake me up when the talking heads are just heads.
The conventional wisdom is that the competitiveness of the Eastern Conference playoffs reflects the fact that the East wasn't really the sucker conference after all. On the contrary, the Hawks/Celtics and Wiz/Cavs series more likely showed that no one in the East could go for the kill. Ugh. So, now we get to the prime time stage of the NBA's B-Squad tournament, and it's Ubuntu vs. The Man.
Getting my prediction out of the way, I'm rolling with the Celtics, but I'm gonna put out there a 12% chance of LeBron winning the whole damn thing by himself. LeBron right now is Harry Truman meets Suge Knight. A dangerous nerd capable of destroying your lofty hopes, but a guy whom people still make fun of behind his back. And the Celtics won't respect him like the Wizards did. You see, the only reason the Wiz had a puncher's chance in that series is that they treated LBJ like MJ. They beat him up, they triple-teamed him, they trash-talked him non-stop, they let Wally Szczerbiak go for 26, they left Delonte West wide open for a game-winner. In other words, they treated LeBron like he was the only guy on the team that mattered, which is pretty darn close to the truth.
Now the Celtics, as opposed to the Wizards, have this aura of foolish pride that is going to likely inspire them to put Pierce on 'Bron in single coverage, which — as good of a defender as Pierce is — is going to be a handful. Maybe Doc Rivers can prove me wrong. Maybe he'll wise up and give 'Bron the Joe Johnson game 7 treatment. Maybe Tony Allen will finally get his proper burn, and maybe James Posey, the Celtics' MVPP (Most Valuable Player in the Playoffs), will get the LeBron assignment (and while we're at it, if Posey starts manning up James, can we get an over/under on how many times the term "length" is used?). But Doc hasn't proven anything yet this entire season, and I give him four games before he can figure out the proper way to guard Bronzino.
What I want to know is whether or not LeBron can get mean. LeBron never really could muster a cool response to the Wizards' prodding of him. Brendan Haywood's infantilizing mimicry of LeBron was hilarious as was DeShawn Stevenson's persistent wet-willying. Dude even let Papa John punk him. And yeah, the Cavaliers ended up winning the series and everyone was talking about how LeBron "spoke with his game" instead of verbally sparring with those plebeian Wizards. Eff. That. LeBron is never going to subvert his robotic/platonic image by actually SAYING anything at all that is more than a cliché or a carefully scripted "I'm above all that" cop-out non-response.
If LeBron can unleash some authentic from-the-soul wrath, he can overcome the dung-storm that the Boston crowd is gonna rain on him. Otherwise, it's curtains for the Cavaliers and another sad summer of speculation from Cleveland fans about LeBron's allegiances, his supporting cast, etc. Let's just say it — now that KG is paired up with Piru Love and Jesus Shuttlesworth, we can safely say that 'Bron is the superstar that has endured the worst supporting casts of all time. When your Pippen-of-the-month has been downgraded to Joe Smith, your chances of a title are slim. Let's hope 'Bron can take things personal, fire himself up and make things interesting.