Kyle Korver, LeBron James talk about Tyronn Lue's strategy vs Celtics

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There had been plenty of optimism surrounding the Celtics with the addition of small forward Gordon Hayward and point guard Kyrie Irving.

The University of California product put together his best series of last year's playoffs against the Cavs.

The Celtics got special performances from all their top players, and here are the five best players on the Celtics from their second round series against the 76ers. And yet here we are now, with arguably the league's best coach and the league's best player going head-to-head.

Boston and Cleveland swapped Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving in the offseason, and neither player will be part of the series. Though he didn't play as well in this series, his stats look worse than they actually are.

The Cleveland Cavaliers star can become a free agent at the end of the season. And in his past six games on Boston's parquet, he's averaging 34.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists. And in a tight game, there is seemingly no chance he'll miss an important shot. None of those games were close as the Cavs won on the road by an average of 30 points. In Game 3, James scored 38, including his nearly comical game-winning runner that may force Toronto to change the direction of its entire organization. Cavaliers' defenders can get twisted around on pick-and-rolls, and particularly dribble handoffs (which the Celtics run a lot of).

What James is doing right now is remarkable to watch. "Did some more treatment, get ready for Tuesday".

James and his teammates know they'll have their ears rung as well. Unlike the rest of us, he won't enjoy it.

Tomorrow we will feature Kyle Korver. Though those odds are a whole lot shorter than the 22/1 odds the Celtics have, they're considerably behind both teams competing in the Western Conference Finals.

Yet they are also viewed as the underdogs no matter which standard you use.

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Winning Game 1 of any National Basketball Association playoff series is important; under this format that the league has been using since 1984, teams that take 1-0 series leads ultimately win those matchups about 80 percent of the time. The Celtics had no one score more than 20 per game.

Boston playoff star Jayson Tatum and Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue are cousins.

James wouldn't narrow down who the Celtics' "head of the snake" is.

After last year's sweep by Cleveland in the second round, the Raptors reworked their style of play with a focus on better ball-sharing, and the development of the bench.

The Celtics closed out the 76ers with a 114-112 win in Boston Wednesday night.

On Friday, Brett Brown said thanks but no thanks to the diagnoses of Kobe Bryant and armchair physiologists everywhere when he flatly rejected the premise that Ben Simmons' current jumpshot is broken beyond fix. This matchup could very well end up being a bellwether for the series. As usual, the Lakers are among those linked to the superstar, potentially able to woo him with young talent, cap space for two star additions and the opportunity to live in LA where James could continue growing his business empire.

In the only post-trade deadline meeting between the Cavs and Celtics, Cleveland throttled Boston in TD Garden 121-99.

No doubt about it, the Sixers got outplayed by Boston in the playoffs - and last year's draft.

The Celtics have home-court advantage again, but the Cavs are the prohibitive favorites to win the East. Cleveland is a 1.5-point favorite in Game 1, according to OddsShark, and the over/under is 204. Still, it was an early indication that the 2017-'18 Celtics would be a tough, resilient group that refused to adopt a wait-till-next-year attitude.

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