Clevelandâ€™s LeBron James vs. Bostonâ€™s Paul Pierce: The Celtics defend James as well as anyone, with Pierce guarding him and two, three or even four guys always ready to help. Even that might not be enough to stop the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder, but Pierce will also make James expend some energy at the defensive end. Edge: Cavaliers.
Clevelandâ€™s Ben Wallace vs. Bostonâ€™s Kevin Garnett: Garnett, the NBAâ€™s Defensive Player of the Year, is what Wallace used to be at that end of the floor, but he also possesses tremendous offensive skills and a very strong will. Wallace could end up doing a lot of sitting in this series because heâ€™s non-dimensional offensively: Edge: Celtics.
Clevelandâ€™s Zydrunas Ilgauskas vs. Bostonâ€™s Kendrick Perkins: The Cavaliers will need Ilgauskas more than ever if they are to match the Celticsâ€™ overall offensive firepower. Big Z could also end up defending Garnett if K.G. moves to center. Perkins is a powerful finisher, but he doesnâ€™t figure too heavily in the offense. Edge: Cavaliers.
Clevelandâ€™s Wally Szczerbiak vs. Bostonâ€™s Ray Allen: Szczerbiak continues to struggle with his shot and confidence, while Allen thinks every shot he takes is going to go in. The reason for that? They usually do. Boston is one of the few teams in the league that still runs players off screens without the ball, and that fits Allen perfectly. Edge: Celtics.
Clevelandâ€™s Delonte West vs. Bostonâ€™s Rajon Rondo: West was decent in Clevelandâ€™s first-round series against Washington and appears to be gaining confidence, but he still tends to shoot a bit too much and at the wrong time. The lightning-quick Rondo is streaky, but if he gets it going, the Cavaliers will be in serious trouble. Edge: Celtics.
Clevelandâ€™s Anderson Varejao, Joe Smith, Daniel Gibson and Devin Brown vs. Bostonâ€™s James Posey, Leon Powe, P.J. Brown, Glen Davis, Sam Cassell and Tony Allen: The Celtics are so deep a guy like Davis, who hurt the Cavaliers repeatedly in the regular season, is now barely playing. Posey, Brown and Cassell are all playoff veterans. The Cavaliers donâ€™t know what they are going to get from one night to the next. Edge: Celtics.
Clevelandâ€™s Mike Brown vs. Bostonâ€™s Doc Rivers: Brownâ€™s done a solid job in the playoffs throughout his three-year stay in Cleveland, but Rivers has been around long enough to know to stick with his big guns for long stretches in the postseason. As much as Brown harps about defense, Riversâ€™ Celtics are even better when theyâ€™re motivated. Edge: Celtics.
The Cavaliers will need a monster series from James and a very, very good one from Ilgauskas just to have a chance to beat Boston, but even that wonâ€™t be enough. The Celticsâ€™ three-headed monster of Garnett, Pierce and Allen, not to mention their depth, will simply be too much for Cleveland to overcome. Prediction: Celtics in five.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€” By RICK NOLAND