NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Lebron vs. Brad Stevens

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by Brandon Seal

     For the first time in LeBron’s decorated playoff career he is facing a team with no
standout All-Star. Al Horford is still one of the better power forwards in the league who’s motor hasn’t slowed down one bit. He was voted to what is probably his last All-Star game and was reported as the last pick by LeBron. Danny Ainge was able to get his guy, Jayson Tatum, in this past NBA draft. Tatum has shown flashes of greatness and his efficiency is rising with his production growing as well. He is playing nearly 5 more minutes a game in the playoffs than he did during the regular season. His 3 point shooting has dropped drastically from the regular season, but he is managing to score 19ppg, which is 5 points more than his regular season average. Jaylen Brown has proven he is worthy of being selected 3 rd in the 2016 NBA draft, averaging 17 points per game in 32 minutes played per playoff game. However, as we look forward to tip off at the TD Garden in Boston tomorrow (Sunday 5/13) there is no active player rocking the Celtics jersey that the majority of the sports world would say is “elite”. I was almost able to say the same last year but the Magic Man known as Brad Stevens morphed Isiah Thomas into a MVP candidate. With the continued success by the Magic Man being able to overcome the loss of both of his “elite” players, Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, to get the 2nd
seed in the East. After dispatching the Bucks in 7 games, they beat the 76ers easily to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals and LeBron should be nervous.

     Brad Stevens is in his 5th year as the Boston Celtics head coach. Before he became an NBA head coach, he was the youngest head coach in NCAA history to reach the NCAA Championship game by taking the Butler Bulldogs to the first of two consecutive Finals appearances. He was never able to lift the trophy, losing to Duke and UConn respectively. After the 2013 playoffs ended, the Boston Celtics announced they were allowing Doc Rivers out of his contract. Shortly after, Brad Stevens was named the 17th head coach of the organization. Since coaching in the NBA, Stevens has made the playoffs every year apart his rookie campaign in 2013-2014. This is the second year in a row he has coached his team to the conference finals. Unfortunately for him, he is facing LeBron again.

     Unless you have been living under a rock and have zero access to the internet, you are aware that LeBron is arguably the greatest player of all time. At the age of 33, LeBron is still the best player on the floor on any given night. It seems this is the best version of The King we have seen in his career. After trading Kyrie away for what inevitably ended up being 4 role players and a potential number one overall draft pick, LeBron knew he would have to continue to raise his game. The King seems to have been able to turn the hands of time backwards on his way to averaging 27.5 points per game, his highest since 2009. He tied his career high average for rebounds at 8.6 per game, and notched a career high for assists with 9.1 per game. So far in the playoffs he has an insane 34 points per game while dishing out 9 assists and grabbing 9 rebounds. He has tacked on 2 game-winning buzzer beaters as well while leading the Cleveland Cavaliers back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth straight year.

     As prior mentioned, the Celtics head into the conference finals without their best two
players in Irving and Hayward. There’s only two reasons Boston has any chance to win this series; home court advantage and Brad Stevens. So far in the post season, the Celtics have yet to lose a game at home. The Garden is always one of the best crowds and there’s no doubt they will show up for this series after losing to LeBron and the Cavs in the conference finals last year. At only 41 years of age, Brad Stevens is already in conversations around the league as the best head coach with most arguments leaving it between him and the Spurs long time head coach, Greg Popovich. He showed the world just how amazing he is at coaching in the conference semis against Philadelphia. In Game 1 of the series, Brad Stevens was able to get the most out of his young playmakers. Rookie star Jayson Tatum scored a career high 28 points to add to Terry Rozier’s 29 points in the win against the Sixers. In Game 2 it look as if the Sixers would be able to finish The Process and make light work of the Celtics. Brad Stevens was having none of it
and made great adjustments coaching his team back from a 22 point deficit to steal Game 2. Game 3 not only showed the greatness of Brad Stevens, but the importance of good coaching. There were multiple key moments late in the game that came down to coaching and execution. 76ers head coach Brett Brown would end up losing the game, and the series to Brad Stevens.

     Even though this series is lacking All-Star names, it will be nothing short of amazing. An all out war between arguably the greatest player of my generation, and who very well may be the greatest coach of my generation. The King versus the Clipboard, if you will. Fortunately for the Clipboard, the King’s court isn’t as stout as in years past. Outside of Kevin Love, the Cavaliers have a bench full of role players. LeBron will have to get his guys to raise their game tremendously if he wants to make it to an eighth straight NBA Finals. On the other side of the hardwood, Brad Stevens is preparing to take the Eastern Crown. He’s proven with Isiah Thomas that he’s phenomenal at working schemes around players strengths and it seems he has a limitless amount of plays for each player. The youngsters, Tatum, Rozier and Brown, are all in with Stevens, proving that they can execute and produce on both sides of the ball. So who will it be? The Boston Celtics and The Clipboard. Or The Cleveland Cavaliers and The King?

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