Celtics survive - Warriors take 1-0 lead in Western Conference Finals

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

By Andrew Ryan

Every now and again, we're blessed with a series that we just flat out don't want to end. We could watch the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards play seven more games and not have a single problem with any of the action. The C's and Wiz genuinely grew to hate each other over the course of the regular season, and the seven games that they played in the Eastern Conference semis showed just that.

But now, the Celtics really have their work cut out for them. They've survived this battle just as they did against Chicago in the opening round of the playoffs, but now, they have the ultimate test ahead against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It feels like about a month since LeBron James and company have been on the court. In totality, the Cavs will have nine days off between series, and that should really help keep them fresh for this one even though they have to travel to Boston for the opening two games.

If the fight in the Celtics against Washington was any indication, this could be a bloody series as well. The Cavaliers haven't been shy when it comes to getting down and dirty when need be, but they're going to want to stay out of the fire as much as possible. LeBron really took over these first two series, and he knows he's going to have to bring it to Beantown right away to give Cleveland the edge. Any sense of belief that might come for Boston could end up making this Eastern Conference Finals a lot harder for the Cavaliers than it probably should be.

Speaking of things that are harder than they should have been, how about the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals? They were down 25 points to the Spurs at one point and trailed by 23 four and a half minutes into the third quarter, and yet they still came all the way back to win the game.

The big problem, of course, was Kawhi Leonard's leg injury. Leonard was already battling an ankle problem that kept him out of the fold for the most crucial moments of Game 5 against Houston and then ultimately all of Game 6. Leonard was fantastic in the 24 minutes that he played in Game 1 against Golden State, and when he left, it's as if the Spurs just had nowhere to turn to find anything on the offensive end of the floor.

Of course, it really helped that Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry really took the game over offensively at that point. It happens with superstars on the floor, and with the Warriors now having four of them, they're incredibly hard to stop. The depth of San Antonio is great, but we still wonder if it's going to have the goods to hang around with the best team in the NBA. We'll never count Gregg Popovich totally out, but the Spurs just don't look good without Leonard, and with him now surely out for Game 2, this series is very likely going to be 2-0 going back to the Lone Star State, and Golden State is sure to be favored in at least Game 3, if not both Games 3 and 4.

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