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NBA News: Cavaliers Still the Team to Beat in the East, Says Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens

By John Davidson
on Apr 13, 2017 08:29 PM EDT
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LeBron James
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are the second seed in the East heading into the 2017 NBA Playoffs. (Photo : Ximo Pierto Official/YouTube)

The Boston Celtics are the number one seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the 2017 NBA Playoffs. However, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens believe that LeBron James and the defending champions Cleveland Cavaliers are still the team to beat in the East.

In an interview after before the Celtics' win over the Bucks to officially clinch the number one spot in the East, Stevens pointed out that they are not the favorites despite their home court advantage through the Eastern Conference Finals.

"Cleveland is the team to beat. There's no question about that. They deserve that. They've been to back-to-back Finals and so until somebody knocks them off, as a defending champion, I think that's a fair way to view things," Stevens said, per Mass Live.

The Celtics defeated the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday to have a two-game lead over the Cavaliers in the East standings. Cleveland rested their top players in the final two games of the regular season so they really don't care about home court advantage.

However, the Cavaliers have had their own struggles in the final couple of months of the regular season. It is alarming that LeBron James did not have usual rest before the playoffs while their defense has been very shaky. The defending champions also had a losing record on the road that might come into factor deep in the playoffs.

The Cavaliers will now face the Indiana Pacers in the first-round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs. They have Indiana's number, which makes them favorites to move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals. LeBron James and the Cavaliers is a different animal in the playoffs.

On the other hand, the Celtics have a date with the suddenly dangerous Chicago Bulls. The Bulls went on a hot-streak to clinch the final playoff spot in the East over the Miami Heat. The 2017 NBA Playoffs will start on Saturday, April 15, per NBA.com.

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