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NBA Playoffs Cavs Celtics Game 1: The rematch begins

May 1, 2010, 12:00 PM EDT

It’s right that it should go this way.

These two never faced one another last year, and now that the Celtics are at full strength and the Cavaliers are ruling the roost, we need to settle this. The 2008 Champions, seeking to regain what they feel is their rightful title. And the Cavaliers, aiming to finally reach the promise land. Each team would face questions if they didn’t go through the other one on their way to the top. So now we get to settle this. Full strength Cavs versus full strength Celts.

The opening game’s questions will center around LeBron James’ elbow, which is supposed to be fine. But you can bet that when James drives, the Celtics will do whatever they can to irritate that side and aggravate it. This is a bullying Celtics team, and they’re likely to do whatever is necessary. Shut down James and the Cavs become a much different team.

But if James is healthy, the Celtics will simply have to live with his impact and try and shut down the rest of the Cavs. Key number one will be swarming Shaquille O’Neal and not giving him any easy buckets. It’ll be interesting to see how the Celtics approach it, and whether they let Kendrick Perkins try and handle him one on one or if they risk a double which could open up the perimeter for Mo Williams, Delonte West, and Anthony Parker.

But given the problems the Celtics faced last year with Rashard Lewis and a versatile stretch four, containing Antawn Jamison is going to be key. Jamison hasn’t really started to sync with the Cavs offense until late in the season and the Bulls series, but Jamison’s ability to create spacing problems is yet another complication for the Celtics.

But it’s not like the Celtics are coming into a gunfight with cap guns and pointy sticks. Ray Allen has rediscovered his stroke, and the Cavaliers have significant problem with running off perimeter shots. It didn’t hurt them first round because the Bulls couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. But the Celtics have players on the perimeter that can hurt them. And hey, Rasheed Wallace is due, right?

Okay, don’t answer that.

Mo Williams better have a few tricks up his sleeve because the Celtics start and end with Rajon Rondo. If Williams can’t slow down Rondo in transition or contain his ability to run that offense to perfection, the Celtics can take this game.

Man up. First round’s over. The real series begin now. 

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