- The Season's Over -

The East’s Top Playoff Seed is a Boobie Trap (LeBron James Scares Me)

February 11, 2008

LeBron James is capable of stomping entire teams You’d think that earning the top seed in this year’s Eastern Conference Playoffs would be a good thing. Home-court advantage throughout, a first-round matchup with the worst team to qualify for the postseason, etc. This year, however, I’m not so sure that’s something the Celtics or Pistons should be aiming for.

It’s a boobie trap. A cruel reward for a job well done. And you know just as well as I do why: whichever team outdistances the other in the two-horse race for the East’s top spot–Boston currently holds a three-game lead over Detroit–will be tasked with containing one LeBron Raymone James, better known as “The Man Who Stomped All Over the Detroit Pistons in the 2007 NBA Playoffs.”

And that’s not an enviable job. Just ask Flip Saunders, who helplessly watched from the sidelines last May as James willed his team to four straight victories over Detroit in the Conference Finals. In those four games he averaged 31.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, 8.7 assists, and 2.2 steals against the NBA’s second-best team defense. Just as importantly as the raw stats, James stepped up in crunch time and showed the world he has “it” in terms of elevating his game by leaps and bounds on the big stage.

LeBron James Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Now, a few things still have to happen before the Celtics or Pistons need to worry themselves with stopping LeBron. They’ll of course need to maintain their pace in the East and secure the top two seeds, respectively. This shouldn’t be too difficult considering that heading into tonight’s action, the Celtics held a commanding 12.5-game lead over the second-place Raptors, while the Pistons held a comfortable 9-game advantage on the Cavs. Currently slotted third in the East, the Orlando Magic are a full six games back from Detroit, and I’d be shocked if they caught up.

More on the LeBron James Dilemma after the jump…

Assuming the Pistons hold off Cleveland in the Central Division and that Orlando doesn’t sneak into the second seed, the Cavaliers would finish no higher than the East’s fourth seed, which seems likely at this point. That means a first-round matchup with the five team (Toronto? Washington?); whomever the opponent, you’d have to give the Cavs the edge because, well, they employ King James. That would then set up a showdown with the East’s top-seeded team in Round Two, again assuming whomever it is doesn’t pull a Dallas Mavericks on us.

I know the Cavaliers haven’t improved LeBron’s supporting cast whatsoever since last season. They’re a flawed team dotted with ugly blemishes, and if James is out of the lineup or off his game, beating quality teams is next to impossible for Cleveland. Still, I don’t want to deal with Postseason LeBron until I have to. Even if the Celtics/Pistons succeed in eliminating LeBron the Cavs, it almost assuredly won’t be an easy task. It’s going to be a draining, painful, tiring ordeal, one that could potentially go on for seven grueling games. No disrespect to the Magic, but they’re still an inexperienced postseason squad and a much more preferable draw in Round Two.

The Celtics and Pistons will tell you it doesn’t matter who they play. And to a degree, that’s true. But these guys are only human, and though they’d never, ever admit it, I don’t think either relishes a postseason rendezvous with King James and His Court of Jesters until absolutely necessary.

3 Comments »Posted by Brian Spencer on Feb. 11, 2008 at 4:16 pm in NBA

3 Responses

Don’t forget the rule change to where if LeBron (Yes, by himself) leaps Orlando in record, even if they don’t win the division, they claim the 3 seed. There’s no advantage to worrying about James until you’re inside two weeks of the playoffs and you can see where James is.

If the Cavs don’t pass Orlando, they’re going to be in that 4-5 matchup, and while they’ll almost surely win, that matchup is always a big pain in the ass.

This season, more than ever, in both the East and West, seeding is of vital importance.

Posted by: Hardwood Paroxysm on February 11th, 2008 at 5:05 pm

Great point about the rule change, and I totally agree with you in that you can’t really worry about where James will land until April rolls around. I just got to thinking about it with the win-loss gap between Boston and Detroit dwindling some.

The Cavs and Magic face off tonight, with two more head-to-head matchups still to come. Should be good.

Posted by: Brian Spencer on February 11th, 2008 at 5:12 pm

As a Raptor’s fan, I hope Cavs improve and take 3rd seed. LeBron has already shown us his 4th quarter dominance. Jan 6, Raps have 13 point lead heading into 4th. LeBron scores 24 in the 4th.

Raps vs Magic has better odds.

Posted by: SWaN on February 12th, 2008 at 4:47 pm

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