The Eastern Conference Finals are set after the Boston Celtics outlasted the Washington Wizards in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The top-seeded Celtics will face the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in a best-of-seven series beginning Wednesday night.
Here are six X-factors to watch from both teams.
The decision to trade for Korver has paid off so far in the postseason. The 3-point marksman is shooting 48.5 percent from behind the arc and averaging 7.8 points in 19.5 minutes per game off the bench. Korver was locked in during the second round of the playoffs, especially on the road in Games 3 and 4 against the Toronto Raptors.
After scoring 14 points in Game 3, Korver came out in Game 4 and helped Cleveland shut the door on Toronto with 18 points. The Celtics will need to be wary of Korver at all times in this next series. When left alone on the perimeter, he’s practically automatic.
Frye has been Cleveland’s leading bench-scorer so far in the postseason, averaging 8.8 points in 14.3 minutes per game. Like Korver, Frye is a threat from the perimeter, only he’s a big man, which can create problems on defense.
Take Game 2 against Toronto for example. Frye torched the Raptors from downtown with five 3-pointers and finished with 18 points off the bench. Boston’s rotations on defense will be key when Frye and the rest of Cleveland’s trigger-happy second unit are on the floor.
When Kyrie Irving goes out of the game, the Cavaliers are in good hands with Williams. Despite only recently joining the team, it’s clear the veteran point guard knows what he’s doing out there. He didn’t score as much in the second round against the Raptors, but he still had an impact by setting up his teammates. Williams does a good job of getting the ball to his shooters, but he can create his own shot as well.
The Celtics rode an epic performance by Olynyk to close out Game 7 on Monday night. The sweet-shooting big man was clutch in the fourth quarter with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He finished with 26 points in all across 28 minutes off the bench.
Olynyk has had his moments in the postseason, and Game 7 against the Wizards is proof he can be a difference-maker. The Cavaliers better not let him get going in this next series.
Smart does a lot of different things for the Celtics. He can score the basketball, get others involved on offense, grab rebounds and he plays tough, physical defense. You need players like that win in the postseason.
In addition to the 13 points he scored in Game 7, Smart also chipped in six rebounds, four assists and two blocks off the bench and tied a team-high plus-14. The Celtics need that sort of production out of Smart in this next series.
Brown hasn’t played many minutes in his first postseason, but last summer’s No. 3 overall pick is making the most of his minutes with impact plays on both ends. Here are a few from Game 7 against Washington:
In the postseason, every play counts. If Brown can give that same sort of effort in this next series, it would really help the Celtics’ chances.