The Eastern Conference Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics begins today with the winner going on to be the Eastern Conference representative in the NBA Finals.
While the Cavaliers road to this stage of the playoffs has been relatively smooth with sweep wins in the first and second round against the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors respectively, it has been quite the bumpy ride for the Celtics on the other hand.
Not only did they lose two games to the Chicago Bulls in the first round, but Boston narrowly made it past the Conference Semifinals of the playoffs after a high-intensity Game 7 against the Washington Wizards which finished 115-105.
The Celtics' star man Isaiah Thomas score a team-high on the night of 29 points with two rebounds and 12 assists to help his team to an important victory, giving them a 4-3 series win and advancing them to the next stage of the playoffs in what must be a very difficult time for him.
On April 15, the day before the Celtics began their first-round series with the Bulls, Thomas' younger sister, Chyna, was killed after she was involved in a single-vehicle accident near their native Tacoma, Washington.
Cavaliers' star LeBron James is simply in awe of him after seeing him put on a fantastic performance despite the recent death of his sister last month. He said, according to WKYC: “At the end of the day, basketball is easiest way to get away from anything that you may be going through, and I said that already. It’s a comfort.
“You see your teammates. You see the court. You see the excitement, and you’re playing something that you’ve been loving forever. Even with him going through what he’s been going through with his personal family and his sister, which I can’t put myself in his shoes, he’s been unbelievable to be able to do that.”
Thomas later credited his 29-point performance vs Wizards to watching film of James against Boston in the playoffs in 2012, to which the Cavaliers' star respects.
“To each his own,” James said. “It’s whatever gets you in the mindset to go out and play. I’ve never watched previous games and things of that nature, but I think it’s to each his own. Obviously, it worked. He had a hell of a game.”
James knows as well that it's going to be very difficult for his team to stop the Celtics' star and his stop-and-go tempo to his drives, but he wouldn't want it any other way.
He said: “There’s some very, very good players that know how to do that, so it’s going to be very challenging for us defensively, but it should be. It’s the postseason and we should want it no other way.”