top of page

Eastern Conference Semifinals Preview: Boston Celtics vs Cleveland Cavaliers

Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland have led the Cleveland Cavaliers through seven games of battle with the Orlando Magic, and their reward will be a meeting with the reigning Eastern Conference Champions, the Boston Celtics. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown extinguished the Miami Heat in five games, defeating them 4-1. Jimmy Butler suffered an MCL injury, and the Heat couldn’t compete with the Celtics' dynamic offense. Even with their loss of Kristaps Porzingis, the Celtics continue to dominate due to the depth of their roster. 

The Celtics medical staff announced on May 3rd that Al Horford would start against the Cavaliers while Porzingis is absent. The five-time All-Star and 18-year veteran must commit all his energy to guard the rising star, Evan Mobley. Mobley had a stellar performance in the first round, imposing his will on the defensive end in every game. His frontcourt mate Jarret Allen suffered a rib injury, and he handled the adversity well while adapting to the center position. 

According to, the Cavaliers have one of the highest defensive ratings in the league, which will be an issue for the Celtics’ five-out offense. The system is so successful that the Celtics had one of the highest offensive ratings in the entire league (123.2) and the 2nd highest 3-point field goal percentage as a team (38.8). Seeing the Cavaliers' game plan for Tatum and Brown will be interesting.

The superstar duo is literally one of the best pairings in the entire league, but Tatum struggled during the quarter-finals. He averaged 21.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 5.4 assists while shooting an abysmal 41.6% from the field. He didn’t have a single positive shooting night but contributed in other ways. Brown picked up the slack and had multiple 20+ point performances, including 33 points in game 2. 

The Celtics are the favorites to win the series, but the Cavaliers are hungry to advance to the Conference Finals. The last time both teams met in the playoffs, they went seven games in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. Mitchell spoke about the series' optics during Sunday’s post-game press conference, letting the public know he was aware of the situation.

“For us coming into Boston—I’m pretty sure everyone thinks they’re going to come in and kick our ass,” Mitchell said. “ So for us, to continue to stay level-headed through it all, not listen to y’all, and be who we are—that’s the biggest thing.”

His recent performances have given him supreme confidence to head deeper into the playoffs. He scored 50 points on the Magic in game 6 and 39 in game 7. He averages 30 points in TD Garden, and his shooting ability has been an issue for the Celtics all year. Joe Mazzulla’s defensive sets haven’t been effective against Mitchell, and Garland averages 20 points as well, so they have shown they can score on the Celtics' defense. He will have to utilize Jrue Holiday’s defensive abilities more than he has all season to try and contain the star-studded backcourt.  


They won the regular season series 2-1, but all the games were closely contested. They’re known for utilizing multiple zone defenses, including the 2-1-2, 4-out, and 2-3. Mazzulla has gained the trust of the front office since taking over after Ime Udoka’s departure. He has compiled a 121-43 regular season record in two seasons and 15-10 in the playoffs.  The Celtics have been ridiculed for having great regular seasons and coming up short in the playoffs. They made the NBA Finals in 2022 but lost to the Golden State Warriors. Last season, they lost to the Heat in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals after coming back from a 3-0 deficit. 

They have to at least make the finals this year to prove they’re enough to bring the franchise their 18th championship. Porzingis will also make a difference this year if he can recover quickly. According to DraftKings sportsbooks, The Celtics are a -1200 favorite, and the Cavaliers are a +800 underdog as Game 1 approaches on Tuesday evening. The benches will make the difference because the stars are going to deliver. Their regular season record indicates the Celtics objectively have the superior bench with shooters like Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard. Max Strus and Isaac Okoro must perform better than the previous series if they want to be taken seriously by the Celtics. Caris LeVert scored 15 points in game 7 versus the Magic, and his newfound durability has allowed him to make valuable contributions off the bench. 

Every game in this series will depend on momentum shifts and consistency. With two superstars like Tatum and Mitchell, fireworks are bound to go off. Both benches have great 3-point shooters and possess great defenders. For the Cavaliers, they haven’t gone this far since the 2nd Lebron era ended in 2018 and would get Mitchell’s legacy in Cleveland off to a great start. Another Eastern Conference Finals appearance for the Celtics gives them another chance to go to the Finals and win their first championship since 2008. The lights will be bright on Tuesday night, and we will see who is able to produce when it matters the most.


bottom of page