At this very moment, the Cleveland Cavaliers are relishing their reward of a much-needed time off, after sweeping the hapless Toronto Raptors.
On the other side of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards are about to take the court tomorrow in hopes of getting that pivotal Game 5 win, which will put them in a good position for the remaining conference finals slot.
A glimpse at the Cavaliers' respective regular season series with the Wizards (2-1) and the Celtics (2-2) can only give us a blurry idea on which team will make the Eastern Conference Finals more difficult for the defending champions. A per-position analysis, however, may reveal the bigger thorn in LeBron and company's side.
PG Kyrie Irving
This will probably be the most important matchup of the series; the Cleveland playmaker will not be shortchanged against either the small but terrible Isaiah Thomas, or John Wall, who is playing the best basketball of his playoff career. Good thing Irving won't have to handle point duties on his own, and can focus more on trying to limit his counterpart.
SG JR Smith
Will the shirtless sniper fare better versus someone who can explode for 30 in a matter of seconds (Bradley Beal), or someone who will get in his face all game long (Avery Bradley)? Something tells us Smith would prefer the latter, considering his shot-chucking tendencies. Although the real question is, which version of him will show up in the ECF—good or bad JR?
SF You know who
Just to be clear, this part will only be for the sake of discourse, with the way LeBron James is balling out of his mind right now. Will it be Jae Crowder's size and experience, or Otto Porter's length and scoring? Still, Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale said it best: "Compete your butt off and I hope you're a religious man, because you're gonna need to say some prayers."
PF Kevin Love
The stretch four is expected to have the upper hand against opposing bigs, whether it's the volatile Markieff Morris, or the so-so Amir Johnson. We think the versatility and youth of Morris will pose more problems for Love, who has yet to really hit his stride this postseason. One strategy that might just work? Keep him off the boards.
C Tristan Thompson
Unlike his frontcourt partner, the odds are stacked against the relentless Cavalier with him being undersized. Sure, Marcin Gortat can abuse Thompson using sheer size, but Al Horford seems more dangerous with his diverse skill set. Don't count Double T's boundless energy out, though—he isn't recognized as the NBA's modern-day "Iron Man" for nothing.
Peaking couldn't have come at a better time for Cleveland's reserves, with Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, and Deron Williams leading the way. Between the spark-plug trios of Marcus Smart-Kelly Olynyk-Terry Rozier and Bogdan Bogdanovic-Brandon Jennings-Kelly Oubre, we'll go with gang green on the account of the ability to deliver on the defensive end.