With a win over Milwaukee on Wednesday, the Boston Celtics (53-29) locked up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, finishing two games ahead of second-seeded Cleveland (51-31).
The Cavs were in control of the No. 1 seed but ended the season on a four-game losing streak, opting to rest LeBron James and Kyrie Irving multiple times.
Might the Cavs regret their decision to concede the East?
“Yes and no,” NBA-TV analyst Jared Greenberg said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Big gamble for a different reason than I think we’re looking at. I don’t think it mattered what seed the Cavs are. LeBron has proven throughout the years that he can win from pretty much any seed. That doesn’t concern me. What concerns me is they got the 2-seed because they have not been playing well. To me, there is a right that a champion gets to feel that you can flip the switch and return to form. That is a right that all champions should have – and I felt the Cavs had the ability to have as well – until LeBron demanded that they needed that playmaker, and then they went and changed all these pieces. In fact, in the last two days, they’ve made four transactions, cutting two guys and adding two guys.
“Now these are end-of-bench guys,” Greenberg continued. “They’re not going to factor into a Game 7 of an Eastern Conference Finals or an NBA Finals. But still, my concern with this team is they have a false sense of reality of being able to flip the switch. Because they’ve made so many personnel moves – and because they’ve had so many key guys injured throughout the course of the year – I think they’re going to flip the switch and not know what light they’re turning on. . . . This team was really good defensively last year. This team was a really good three-point-shooting team last year. They ultimately can be that team, but they need games to figure that out – and because of the way LeBron approaches the postseason, they can’t afford to mess around and play six- and seven-game series leading up to what is going to be another epic showdown with the Warriors in the NBA Finals.”
Ultimately, Greenberg believes that is the matchup that we’ll get. Boston finished ahead of Cleveland, Toronto (51-31) finished with the same record as Cleveland, and Washington (49-33) finished just two games behind Cleveland. Those teams are comparable to Cleveland record-wise.
But not over the course of a seven-game series.
“I think it’s a bit unfortunate this year that there isn’t an opponent that is ready to take on the Cavs and take them out,” Greenberg said. “I think that on paper, the Raptors and Wizards have the personnel to challenge the Cavs, and they’ve got some guys with the experience in the postseason. I love the Wizards’ back court. Two years ago, that team got out of the first round, they got to the second round – they have that in them. But I just don’t feel like over a seven-game series, any of these teams – no matter where the games are played – that they’re better than the Cavs. I don’t think they could win four games. So I think getting to the NBA Finals, yes, it is inevitable. I just hope the Cavs don’t mess around with it. I hope they are ready and focused and use this rest that they’ve been getting for good use.”