The NBA Finals might be weeks away, but a rematch of last year’s NBA semifinals matches familiar faces. Here are four things to ponder during the Celtics-Cavs series before — presumably — one team continues its advancement to the Finals.
Celtics vs. LeBron James
The most current concern in the city of Cleveland is if the elbow of reigning MVP LeBron James will be ready to go on Saturday night for Game 1. His elbow was tweaked as he came down on it after contesting the layup of Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. Thus far, LeBron says that he will be ready to go Saturday and is for the most part 100 percent. LeBron has had great person success this season and in the past against the Celtics. In four regular-season games this year, he averaged 36.5 points, 8.3 assists and 6.5 rebounds. This may be James' year to win it all as he is not only coming off one of his better statistical regular seasons, but has the players around him to take on anything the rest of the NBA decides to bring his way.
Cleveland’s new starting lineup and depth off the bench
The 2010 Cavaliers have been completely upgraded from the 2008 team that was defeated in the Eastern Conference Championship by the Celtics. Not only does the starting lineup come with a completely new look, but the firepower that the Cavs produce off the bench is what makes this year’s team heavily favored to make a championship appearance. The starting lineup now features Moe Williams, Anthony Parker, Antwan Jamison and Shaquille O'neal. One of the most productive benches in basketball includes Delonte West, Jamario Moon, Anderson Verejao and Zydrunas Illgauskas. The Cavs are twice improved over the 2008 team that the Celtics faced, while their depth off the bench gives them the firepower to play with any team they will face along the playoffs.
Cleveland holds home-court advantage as the No. 1 seed
This time two years ago when the two teams played, the Celtics had boasted the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference along with the claim to home-court advantage. 2010 is a different year as the Cavs hold home-court advantage throughout the entire playoffs. I’m sure the Cavs are more than happy to begin the Series in the "Q" rather than in the Celts "TD Gardens." This is one of the series’ more significant factors as the Cavaliers hold one of the NBA's best home records in the last two years.
Lack of production from Celtics bench
For what seems like the entire year, the Celtics have received no serious production from their bench players. To make matters worse, newly acquired Michael Finley and Nate Robinson have done nothing with the few minutes they've played this season. Proven veteran Rasheed Wallace, who was acquired with a large paycheck this summer, has struggled throughout the year to find his fit with the rest of the team. The "Big 3" (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett) are going to need a helping hand from their teammates if they don't plan on watching the rest of the playoffs from their couch throughout May and June.
Prediction: Cavs win 4 games to 1
Joey Votto won the NL MVP yesterday by getting 31 of the 32 first-place votes, a dominating total that left little doubt about the 27-year-old first baseman's rapidly ascendant reputation. It's no coincidence that Votto's move into the MLB elite coincided with the team's first playoff appearance in 15 years (and just their second playoff appearance since 1979), which was also the last time a Reds player, Barry Larkin, won the MVP. What wasn't expected was the gusher of praise about the Reds future from MLB Network's panel of Hot Stove analysts.
After a couple of days of suspense, the Bengals anticlimactically announced today that Marvin Lewis is coming back for two more years as head coach.
I was going to craft a long, acerbic essay about the dysfunctional nature of Mike Brown’s dad Paul Brown’s once-proud franchise, but then I just became depressed and walked over to Sunshine Foods — a longtime CityBeat employee lunch stop staple — and splurged on a Italian sausage hoagie with pizza sauce and pickles.
Temple cruised to an easy 85-72 victory over Xavier after dominating from the start. Tied 5-5 with 16:36 remaining in the first half, Xavier went more than seven minutes without a point while the Owls reeled off 16. Though Xavier finally got back on the board, there was little to applaud about a lackluster first half effort. Xavier gave up a season-high 47 first-half points and six 3-pointers and found themselves down 20 at the break. Two of the Muskies' key contributors, Dez Wells and Kenny Frease, combined for 0 points by going 0-6 from the field.
Temple boasts the top-two scorers in the conference, and they did not disappoint. Ramone Moore dropped five 3-pointers on the Muskies and scored a game high 30 points. The Owls other starting guard, Khalif Wyatt, added 18. The 6-foot-11 Micheal Eric was a beast on the boards, ripping down 16 rebounds and adding 11 points. The second half provided a little more excitement for Xavier fans, but it was all for not.
Dez Wells knocked down two second half 3-pointers to cut it to 13 with 12 minutes left. Temple went cold from the field and a Tu Holloway free throw cut it to single digits with a little over a minute to go — too little too late. Holloway led Xavier with 23 points and Mark Lyons added 15.
Xavier now needs help from the rest of the A-10 if there is any hope for a sixth straight conference title, which is unlikely. Xavier must now prepare to play Dayton on Saturday. The Flyers spanked the Muskies by 15 back on Jan. 21.
OK, maybe we were wrong.
Last December, as both the Bengals and Bearcats were riding high via uncommonly strong seasons, Danny Cross and I wrote cover-story essays about why each team's success wouldn't be just a one-year anomaly. I took the Bengals, he took the ’Cats.
Flash forward 11 months: The Bengals have lost six straight games to fall to 2-7, and the Bearcats are coming off a 37-10 shellacking at West Virginia that dropped their record to 3-6, making a bowl game appearance unlikely.
So what happened?
I flipped through the latest issue of The Sporting News during a stop at Fountain News (far and away the best source for magazines and newspapers downtown) yesterday. A few locally related mentions caught my eye:
1. Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty was named SN’s 2010 MLB Executive of the Year by a group of 24 peers. Jocketty tells SN that the biggest challenge was to instill a “culture of winning” into a franchise that hadn’t delivered a winning season in a decade.