While the majority of the country will view the Cleveland versus Boston series as an opportunity for LeBron James to start his quest to bring a championship home by defeating the team that ended his first tenure in Cleveland, we at Hardwood Insiders are looking at it from a different perspective. This series represents New Jersey native Kyrie Irving's first playoff experience, and a chance to try and separate himself as the best point guard in the league. It also presents an opportunity for fellow New Jersey native JR Smith to prove he can be a contributor on a championship team.
Before Irving called Quicken Loans Arena home he was lacing them up in the Garden State. Irving spent his first two seasons at Montclair Kimberly Academy, scoring 1000 points and leading MKA to the New Jersey Non-Public B State Title. Irving spent his final two school seasons at national power St. Patrick's (The Patrick School), where he led them to a New Jersey Tournament of Champions title as a junior. Irving was named a McDonald's All-American following his senior season. He spent one season at Duke before being drafted number one overall in the 2011 NBA Draft.
JR Smith started his prep career at Lakewood High School before transferring to perennial power St. Benedict's Prep. Smith committed to the University of North Carolina after averaging over 25 points per game for the Gray Bees. However following a standout performance in the McDonald's All-American, where he was named co-MVP with Dwight Howard, he declared for the NBA Draft and was selected 18th overall in the 2004 draft.
Both players will have a huge impact on the series. Here's how:
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers) 6'3 Point Guard
Hometown: West Orange, New Jersey
High School: St. Patrick's
2014-15 NBA Stats: 21.7 points | 3.2 rebounds | 5.2 assists
Synopsis: The key to Irving's and ultimately the Cavaliers success in the series is how Irving deals with the Celtics pesky backcourt of Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley. Both Smart and Bradley, who are defensive stalwarts, will likely take turns guarding Irving. The Cavs played the Celtics four times this season, splitting the regular season series; although Irving missed the final two match-ups which Cleveland lost. In the Cavs two wins with Irving, he averaged 22.5 points on 55% shooting. Both numbers are significant because in the 75 games Irving played for the Cavaliers they won 53 and in those wins he average 21.9 points and shot just under 50%. If Irving continues his hot shooting against the Celtics you can expect this one to end in four games.
J.R. Smith (Cleveland Cavaliers) 6'6 Shooting Guard
Hometown: Clarcksburg, New Jersey
High School: St. Benedicts Prep
2014-15 NBA Stats: 12.7 points | 3.5 rebounds | 2.5 assists
Synopsis: Smith played 46 games with the Cavaliers after being traded from the New York Knicks and the team took off after he arrived, going 34-12. Smith filled the role as a much needed shooter to spread the floor for Irving and James drives to the basket. Smith shot just under 40% from the three-point line. If Smith continues his hot shooting from behind the arc the Cavs should win the series easily.
x Paul Johnson
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