Defending LeBron James? I'm the NBA's second best, claims Celtics' Marcus Morris

Gordon Hayward Brad Stevens

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Kyrie Irving was dealt to Boston in a blockbuster offseason deal for Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder.

With the 2015 first-round sweep and last year's five-game series win in the conference finals, the Cavaliers have generally had final word on the Celts' playoff hopes during the Stevens era. At the time, nobody knew that Irving's fallaway jumper against Cory Joseph with two minutes remaining in the first half would be his final field goal of the 2017-18 season. Boston and Cleveland are meeting in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row.

"They have guys who are damn good no matter whether they are young or not", James said.

For their part, the Celtics know what they're up against as they try to prevent James from reaching his eighth-straight Finals.

"When you get here, you're flattered by the thought of the Boston Celtics and all you're thinking about is the tradition and history", said Stevens. And now when he gets rotated onto everyone from James to Kyle Korver, it will be as one of the best young defenders in the National Basketball Association. "I just have to keep guys on track and hold guys accountable".

In all, six players reached double figures during the series, including all five starters.

On paper, the Celtics are the better team, the higher seed.

The Boston Celtics played the Cleveland Cavaliers three time this regular season. Tatum has scored a franchise record 20 points in each of the last seven playoff games - the only Boston rookie ever to do that.

Good luck to all of them, since James has been rolling, averaging 34.3 points on 55 percent shooting, 9.4 rebounds and nine assists in 11 playoff games so far.

Rozier has flourished in a starting role since Irving was sidelined in mid-March.

It breeds not only a tough-as-nails mindset but also a level of confidence few teams that have faced James bring to the table this time of year. ". He knows that, obviously, [Kevin] Love at the 5 is a unique coverage. But we found a way, we pulled together".

Like James, Rozier first bounced a ball in Northeast Ohio. But, with the Cavs former superstar point guard in street clothes on the Celtics bench, this series becomes much more interesting. "He's gotten better and better". And Boston might not even get in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes this offseason, or go after Anthony Davis the next. "He's a local guy". The King - who's piled up four 40-point games, eight double-doubles and two triple-doubles so far - has led Cleveland in both scoring and assists in an NBA-record 12 straight Playoff games dating back to previous year. The Pacers were physical, resilient and confident.

LeBron James, an old nemesis - graceful in his magnificence yet ruthless in his ways - will enter the building amid deafening jeers.

"Boston is better than Indiana", Cavs forward Kyle Korver said. With as much respect as we have for IN, obviously, they took us to seven, I think defensively Boston is elite. They don't always abide. He teased the Pacers and made them think they had a shot, only to snuff the life out of them in Game Seven. "It's just been this weird year where it feels like it has been three seasons in one and so much turnover, so many lineup changes, a lot of new and a lot of drama and I think somewhere in there we had to reestablish who we have to be. We knew what to expect against Toronto and that first series was a hell of a series for us in a number of ways, but preparation was definitely key with in".

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