Cavs vs. Celtics predictions: Expert picks for the NBA Eastern Conference finals

The Eastern Conference finals are here, and the same question is on every NBA fan's mind: Can the Celtics actually beat the Cavaliers?

LeBron James and company have waltzed through the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs without even breaking a sweat, while the Wizards took the Celtics to seven games and thanks to a larger-than-life performance out of Kelly Olynyk, Boston is in the conference finals.

Our experts have mulled it over and have come up with their predictions for the upcoming Cavs-Celtics series, with the winner headed to the NBA Finals.

Bill Reiter: Cavs in 5

Forget the Cavaliers lackluster regular-season defense, the sniping from LeBron, and the Boston's grind-it-out series win against a feisty Washington team or their well-earned homecourt advantage. Only one NBA squad has what it takes to stop LeBron James and his quest for another ring, and they'll be waiting in the Finals. The Celtics put up a fight, Isaiah Thomas has moments of offensive excellence, and Brad Stevens continues to carve his place in the game as one of its best coaches -- to no avail. Boston wins a single game at home, and that's it. The Cavs have a date with the Warriors, and they're in a rush to get there.   

Ethan Skolnick: Cavs in 5

Lesson learned. Do not bet against this Cavaliers team in this conference when LeBron James is at his most rested and lethal. Jae Crowder will take the challenge but James will still get where and what he wants, and the Celtics' bigs will struggle to keep Tristan Thompson off the boards. This is where it will become clear that Danny Ainge needs to dispense of some depth for another star. Boston may get a game just because the Cavs relax and Isaiah Thomas goes for 35-plus. But it ends there.  

Matt Moore: Cavs in 4

The Celtics had a phenomenal season, overcoming a lot of things that stood in their way to get to this point, and have answered the call at every turn. But LeBron James is the best player in basketball, and the Cavaliers have shown time and time again that they can dictate this matchup. Al Horford won them the Wizards series ... but he is always horrible against the Cavs. Isaiah Thomas is incredible ... but he's facing more length and better defense. The Celtics' depth will help, but there's just too much here for a matchup that has looked very lopsided at times, especially when the Cavs have tried.   

James Herbert: Cavs in 5

The Celtics could push the version of the Cavs that we saw in the regular season, but the playoffs have been a different story. If there are no injury surprises, Cleveland should be expected to keep rolling. Boston is at a serious disadvantage on the boards, and as great as Brad Stevens is, it is hard to imagine coaching making up for the talent disparity here. LeBron James is on a different level from everybody else right now, plus he's extremely well-rested.   

Jack Maloney: Cavs in 5

There are all sorts of things you can discuss here from a basketball standpoint, but this matchup comes down to one simple fact: the Cavaliers have LeBron James, and the Celtics do not. 

Chris Barnewall: Cavs in 5

I'll give Isaiah Thomas a game to do something nuts and give the Cavs their lone loss of the playoffs. Aside from that? This is going to be a completely one-sided series. Boston has accomplished a lot this season and should be proud of what they've done, but Cleveland is a horrible mismatch for them. Al Horford treats this Cavs roster like Kryptonite and has never been able to do much against them. If the Cavs put LeBron on Thomas at any point it basically removes him from the play entirely. Boston isn't a bad team and that's why they got this far. The Cavs are just in a class of their own.  

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories
    CBS Sports Shop