Wednesday, May 17, 2017

NBA: Win over Celtics counts for nothing, says LeBron

BOSTON -- LeBron James believes Cleveland's regular-season rout of Boston will count for nothing as the two teams prepare to clash in the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals here Wednesday.

The Cavaliers dismantled the Celtics on April 5 in a crushing 114-91 blowout at the TD Garden, completing a 3-1 record over Boston over the 2016-2017 campaign.

But James insists the Cavaliers' dominance of their opponents over the regular season will be irrelevant when they lock horns in Game 1 on Wednesday.

"We're a totally different team and they're a totally different team at this point," James said Tuesday. "So I take nothing from it."

The Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference final after downing Washington in Game 7 of their semi-final series on Monday.

Boston's Isaiah Thomas powered into the showdown against Cleveland on the back of another high-scoring display, with 29 points and 12 assists in Monday's Game 7 defeat of the Wizards.

Thomas has provided one of the most compelling storylines of the postseason, battling the personal agony of his younger sister's death in a car crash to produce a series of match-winning displays.

On Monday he played through the pain of a cracked tooth and two other shifted teeth to help guide the Celtics past the Wizards.

James, who is chasing his fourth NBA Championship ring, spoke admiringly of Thomas's displays for the Celtics, suggesting the basketball court may be a refuge for the 28-year-old point guard.

"I think at the end of the day, basketball is the easiest way to get away from anything that you may be going through," James said.

"It's like a comfort. You see your teammates, you see the court, you see the excitement, and you're playing something that you've been loving and things of that nature forever. Even with (Thomas) going through what he's been going through with his personal family and his sister, which is -- I can't put myself in his shoes.

"He's been unbelievable to be able to do that."

The Cavaliers have made light work of their opponents in the postseason to date, recording back-to-back sweeps to advance to the conference final without dropping a game.

It means James and his teammates have not played for 10 days heading into Wednesday's series opener but the reigning NBA Finals MVP does not believe the lengthy layoff will have blunted Cleveland's edge.

"As far as our mental side, I'm not worried about that. It's always like the rhythm. It'll be 10 days tomorrow since we played a game. The rhythm is something you kind of like see if we still have it," James said, brushing off suggestions that playing in Boston would help sharpen Cleveland's mental approach.

"It doesn't matter. It's the playoffs. It doesn't matter if you're starting at home or on the road," James said.

"You should be focused, and if not, you shouldn't be a part of the playoffs anyway."