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Eastern Conference Finals: Cleveland Cavaliers vs Boston Celtics

No. 2 BOSTON CELTICS (55-27) vs. No. 4 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (50-32)

• Boston and Cleveland are meeting in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row. Last season, the Cavaliers beat the Celtics in five games. This is their eighth playoff matchup overall, with Boston ahead 4-3.

• Cleveland is looking to join the short list of franchises that have reached the NBA Finals in four straight years. Boston (twice), the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami are the only teams to do it. (Golden State can accomplish the feat by winning the Western Conference Finals.)

• The Celtics are chasing their first Finals appearance since 2010. That year, they defeated the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, ending LeBron James’ first stint with Cleveland.

• LeBron James is seeking to become the sixth player in NBA history to play in at least eight consecutive NBA Finals. The five who have done so all played with the Celtics a half a century ago: Bill Russell (10), Tom Heinsohn (9), Sam Jones (9), K.C. Jones (8) and Frank Ramsey (8).

• The Cavaliers won the season series 2-1, including a 121-99 victory in Boston on Feb. 11, three days after shaking up their roster at the trade deadline. Jordan Clarkson, George Hill, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. all made their Cleveland debuts in that game. Of the four, Hill is the only one who has played a big role during the playoffs.

• None of the big names from last August’s blockbuster trade between the teams will be playing in this series. Boston’s Kyrie Irving is out after having knee surgery. Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder finished the season with the Lakers and Jazz, respectively. The Cavaliers do own the Celtics’ 2018 first-round pick via Brooklyn.

• Last season, LeBron James passed Michael Jordan to become the all-time playoff leader in points and free throws made. This season, James vaulted Scottie Pippen to take over first place in steals. He also ranks second in three-pointers made (346), behind Ray Allen (385), and third in assists.

• LeBron James’ 34.3 scoring average in the 2018 playoffs is his highest since the 2009 postseason, when he averaged 35.3 points for a Cleveland team that lost to Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals.

• LeBron James has won at least two playoff series in each of the last eight seasons, which ties the record held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper of the 1982-89 Lakers and Bill Russell, Sam Jones and K.C. Jones of the 1959-66 Celtics.

• Boston head coach Brad Stevens put on a coaching clinic against the 76ers, taking away their strengths on offense and forcing them into tough situations on defense. Stevens has been lauded by fellow coaches for his schemes and play calls dating to his days as a college coach at Butler. Since a 25-57 finish in his first season with Boston (2013-14), the Celtics have improved their win total every year -- from 40 to 48 to 53 to 55.

• Kevin Love’s play against the Raptors in the Conference Semifinals was a big reason for the Cavaliers’ sweep. The 29-year-old averaged 20.5 points compared to 11.4 against the Pacers in the first round. Love did a lot of damage in the post as opposed to spotting up on the outside. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue has made it a point to get the five-time All-Star more paint touches, and Love is delivering.

• Boston’s Terry Rozier continues to shine in a starting role in place of Kyrie Irving. The 24-year-old is averaging 18.2 points per game in the playoffs, up from 11.3 during the regular season. Rozier is the latest example of a player drafted outside of the Lottery by Danny Ainge who is likely to enjoy a long NBA career. Others include Tony Allen, Avery Bradley, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins.

• Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum has scored at least 20 points in seven straight playoff games, tied for the second-longest streak by a rookie in NBA history (along with Utah’s Donovan Mitchell). The record is 10, set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1970. The 20-year-old Tatum is averaging 18.8 points per game in the playoffs, up from 13.9 during the regular season.

• In last year’s Conference Finals series, a then 20-year-old Jaylen Brown got thrown in the fire to take a few defensive turns on LeBron James. Brown continues to be a standout on the defensive end, while his offensive game has taken a major step forward in his second season. After battling a hamstring injury against the 76ers, he ended the series on a high note, scoring 24 points on 10-for-13 shooting in Game 5.

• The Celtics’ Al Horford and the Cavaliers’ Kyle Korver were teammates for four seasons (2012-16) with the Atlanta Hawks. In 2014-15, they were two of four All-Stars (Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague) who helped the Hawks win 60 games and face Cleveland in the Conference Finals. Horford has been superb at both ends of the court in this year’s playoffs, while Korver had a hot-shooting series against Toronto.

• Cleveland’s Jeff Green was originally drafted by the Celtics with the fifth pick in the 2007 NBA Draft and immediately traded to the Seattle SuperSonics for Ray Allen, a move that helped Boston win the 2008 NBA title. Green returned to the Celtics in 2011 and spent parts of the next four seasons with the team. When he missed the 2011-12 season with an aortic aneurysm, the Celtics stood by him and eventually re-signed him.

• Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue began his coaching career with Boston, serving as an assistant under Doc Rivers from 2009-13. Lue followed Rivers to the LA Clippers for one season (2013-14) before being hired as the Cavaliers’ associate head coach under David Blatt in 2014. He was promoted to head coach on Jan. 22, 2016, and led Cleveland to its first NBA title that season.

• Cavaliers assistant coach James Posey won the 2008 NBA championship as a player with the Celtics. Cleveland assistant coach Mike Longabardi was an assistant coach on that Boston team.