The Cleveland Cavaliers meeting the Boston Celtics for the first time this season is filled with negative emotion and maybe some hate built up since last season’s playoff series. Jae Crowder is especially focused on J.R. Smith, while there’s also the Kevin Love and Kelly Olynyk angel. LeBron James and his long history with Boston teams? That’s not even the most interesting thing.
The Cavaliers swept the Celtics in last year’s first round playoff series, which resulted in maybe the most significant injury of the playoffs, as Kevin Love dislocated his shoulder after a tangle and maybe an intentional pull by Kelly Olynyk in what might have been the biggest help to the Golden State Warriors championship. Crowder sprained his ACL in the final game of the series after a backhand from J.R. Smith, something he hasn’t really forgotten.
While it seems Love and Olynyk don’t have any bad blood between them, as the two have texted since, with Olynyk apologizing and Love moving on (doing well with 17.8 points and 11 rebounds per game). But for Crowder, who didn’t really pick up such a serious injury, things are a little deeper. He is hinting at every opportunity that what Smith did was on purpose, and if he doesn’t get an apology before the game (and you never know with Smith), he’s ready to play ball, whatever that means.
Brad Stevens is probably trying to calm things down. There’s a bigger chance of one of his players losing it and getting thrown out, which won’t really help them against the Cavaliers, who once again lead the East with a 15-7 record. The Celtics are two games behind at a 14-10 record, but see themselves as one of the teams that will keep pressure on the Cavaliers all season, even if their more realistic expectations are to simply finish higher than last season.
And James? He’ll probably never get applause in Boston unless he announces retirement like Kobe Bryant. While the Celtics dominated the Cavaliers and James during his first tenure in Cleveland, the last five years have turned everything around, with the Heat and James winning two championships and twice going through the Celtics, and last season James having a very easy time of sending the Boston fans home with nothing. He has often brought his best to the TD Garden, but in the regular season, the Cavaliers tend to doze off sometimes when they don’t feel the stakes are high enough.