Count Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman as one person who considers the Boston Celtics to be major underdogs against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He compares 2008 to this season.
“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.
My first reaction: Wait, Wally Szczerbiak is doing television work? For what station?
My second reaction: Ray Allen’s shot is far from “as unpredictable as the New England weather.” Actually, since the All-Star break Ray’s been on the money. He’s one of the game’s best shooters. If you recall, Goodman, Ray had one of the worst stretch of games of his life against Cleveland in that series two seasons ago. The chances of him being that bad this time around are as slim as Calista Flockhart. He averaged 9.3 points per game, and shot 16.7% from three-point distance. So let’s not pretend he’ll be worse this series, especially after he just spent five games throwing darts against Miami.
My third reaction: Other than the Ray Allen discrepancy, Goodman is just about right. The Celtics are underdogs, and should be.
But they aren’t toast, and one of the reasons Celtics fans can be a little confident is that Lebron has never won a championship. Until the Cavaliers win something, they still haven’t won anything.
What do you guys think?