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 A look at the matchup between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the NBA playoffs, which begins Tuesday (with regular-season record, first-round series mark in parentheses):
No. 1 BOSTON CELTICS (66-16, 4-3) vs. No. 4 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (45-37, 4-2).
Season Series: Tied, 2-2, with Boston winning a game that LeBron James missed and Cleveland taking the one that Kevin Garnett sat out. The Celtics also won the lone meeting that came after the Cavaliers' big trade at the deadline. James averaged 32.3 points, 9.7 assists and 7.0 rebounds, with huge games in both Cleveland victories, but sat out a Dec. 2 loss with a sprained finger. Ray Allen scored 23.8 per game for Boston, but neither Garnett nor Pierce had extraordinary numbers.
Storyline: The Celtics had a surprisingly difficult time in the first round, needing seven games to eliminate Atlanta. Things won't get any easier now, because James and the rest of the defending Eastern Conference champions will be fresher, with Boston getting just one day off before the series starts.
Key Matchup I: Paul Pierce vs. James. James shot only 41 percent against Boston during the regular season, going 7-for-24 in the Celtics' 92-87 victory on Feb. 27. But he took 40 free throws in three games, and the Celtics will have to double-team him frequently. The Celtics need Pierce to make James work on the other end, but their All-Star forward managed only 13.5 points on 25 percent shooting against the Cavs.
Key Matchup II: Garnett vs. Ben Wallace. The Cavs' deadline deal gave them one of the NBA's top defenders to match up with Garnett, the league's Defensive Player of the Year. Wallace won the award four times this decade and is still a good rebounder and shot blocker, but provides little on the other end. His horrendous free throw shooting (25 percent in the first round) could be a liability in close games. He'll try to keep Garnett, who averaged 21 points in the first round, closer to the 15.3 he put up against the Cavs.
X-Factor: Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak. James will find open shots for his teammates, and he needs these two former Celtics to make them from the outside. The Cavs were 4-0 in the first round when one of them scored at least 15 points.
Prediction: Celtics in 7.
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