The Cleveland Cavaliers were dominant in their first game with their new-look roster, beating the Celtics 121-99 in Boston on Sunday. Seven Cavs finished in double figures, including newbies Jordan Clarkson (17 points), Rodney Hood (15) and George Hill (12).
It was only one game, sure, but is Cleveland (33-22) the best team in the East?
“No, I think Toronto is the best team in the East still,” NBA Radio and NBA TV analyst Brian Geltzeiler said on Taz & The Moose. “With that said, just because they’re the best team in the East doesn’t mean they’re going to go to the Finals. I think what the Cavs did here is narrowed the gap between themselves and the Celtics and the Raptors.”
The Raptors (39-16) lead the Celtics (40-18) by a half game in the East, as Boston has lost eight of 14.
“The Celtics are struggling right now,” Geltzeiler said. “They caught them at a good time yesterday, so I don’t think we’re necessarily going to take yesterday and make it a microcosm of now the Cavs are better than the Celtics. But I think the Cavs have certainly narrowed the gap a ton.”
James scored 24 points in 28 minutes Sunday. He also had 10 assists and eight rebounds. It was the fewest minutes he’s played in a win since Nov. 28.
“The last couple years they’ve been the best team in the East, and the Heat were the best team in the East before that,” Geltzeiler said. “You have LeBron. So when things start to break down and go bad, you still have the one guy that could put you over the hump, even when the rest of your team may not be good enough. That’s why I say the Raptors are better, (but) I just don’t know that they’re necessarily going to be able to beat LeBron James in a playoff series if everybody’s healthy on the Cavs. If I had to gun-to-my-head pick somebody to go to the Finals, I’d take the Raptors because I love what I see out of them and I haven’t seen enough out of this new-look Cavs team. But from a one-game sample size, their pieces seemed to fit really, really well for them.”
Where this leaves Kevin Love, Geltzeiler isn’t sure. Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance are much better defenders, and James excels at the 4.
“LeBron is best at the 4, and you saw that yesterday,” Geltzeiler said. “I think this group fits great right now. It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens with Kevin Love when he gets back.”
Either way, Geltzeiler believes that the Cavs’ ceiling is winning the East.
“Forget about Golden State,” he said. “They’re not good enough to beat Golden State.”