Menu
Home

Basketball

LeBron will be Boston's downfall

Their raggedy old legs had enough left to dispatch D-Wade and the Miami Heat, but the Boston Celtics aren't ready for LeBron and the Cavs.

Much has changed since the last time the Boston Celtics faced King James in the postseason.

That was two years ago - before James establishing himself as the world's supreme basketball player and before the aging process truly began to take its toll on Boston's Big Three.

"Obviously, it's going to be similar to Miami," the Celtics' Kevin Garnett said of Cleveland following Boston's 96-86 victory to advance to the second round. "With a better cast."

Hey, KG, Cleveland's cast isn't even in the same stratosphere as Miami's.

In fact, this Miami team looked eerily similar to the Cavaliers group that Boston took care of in seven games a couple years ago.

But the roles have flopped, and now the Cavs are the prohibitive favorites - and for good reason.

In 2008, there was that memorable shootout between Paul Pierce and 'Bron in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals that brought on flashbacks of Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins going back and forth in the old days.

James had 45.

Pierce finished with 41.

The Celtics pulled out the win and went on to win the NBA title. Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen were vindicated after careers of coming up short in different venues.

But these aren't the same teams.

"It's a whole different ballgame," Celtics forward Glen Davis said of this year's matchup.

That Cleveland team was comprised of LeBron and a bunch of spare parts.

There was Ben Wallace, in the twilight of his career, starting up front alongside Zydrunas Ilgauskas - who could barely move and rarely gets his worn-down 7-foot frame off the bench these days.

Delonte West has also been relegated to a reserve role, and the final starter, Wally Szczerbiak, is now retired and doing television work.

Now, James has plenty of help.

Shaquille O'Neal isn't in his prime, but he's still a major upgrade over Ilgauskas. The Cavs dealt for guard Mo Williams before 2008, and he was an instant All-Star with James by his side. Anthony Parker has been a valuable piece, and the Cavs established themselves as arguably the favorites to win the title when Danny Ferry added Antawn Jamison on Feb. 17 for what amounted to a late first-round pick.

The Celtics aren't the same, either.

Garnett was a machine just 24 months ago, a 31-year-old relentless and athletic freak who was a virtual lock to put up 20 and 10 during the playoffs.

Now, he's just another player after battling knee injuries that forced him to watch the entire postseason a year ago and also had him miss a significant portion of the 2009-10 regular season.

Allen was money.

Now, he's a soon-to-be 35-year-old whose shot is as unpredictable as the New England weather.

Pierce was capable of exploding for 40 on any given night.

Now, he's more likely to be held to single digits.

Sure, there have been significant improvements in Rajon Rondo's game, but this is a mismatch.

Celtics boss Danny Ainge went out in the offseason and rolled the dice with maligned veteran Rasheed Wallace. It came up craps as 'Sheed has given the Celtics no bang for their buck.

Ferry added his own former North Carolina Tar Heels big man in Jamison, who has less mileage on his body and has been exactly what Cleveland needed to put itself on another level.

"Both teams are completely different," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "We're older, but Rondo, (Kendrick) Perkins and Baby (Glen Davis) are better. We've changed because of our games while they've changed because of their personnel. They're loaded and deep."

But the Celtics still have a trio of likely Hall of Famers on their roster. They are what Miami coach Erik Spoelstra called the most mentally tough team in the league.

Boston played extremely well in all three home games and Allen, who struggled with his shot for much of the season, knocked down 19 trifectas in the five playoff games.

Pierce averaged a shade under 20 points, Rondo played like one of the top floor leaders in the NBA and Davis had his moments off the bench.

The last time they had Garnett on the floor in the postseason, they hung a banner.

"Things don't stop here," Garnett said after taking care of the Heat.

That was true -- a couple years ago.