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Dream scenario unfolds for Celtics after Game 1 Cavs loss
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Dream scenario unfolds for Celtics after Game 1 Cavs loss

BOSTON – The Celtics played another mediocre game by their standards in Game 1 against the Cavaliers on Tuesday night and it didn’t matter. Boston pulled away late for a 120-95 victory at TD Garden, winning by double figures for the fifth time this postseason over six games.

With the Cavs looking like easy competition aside from the hobbling Donovan Mitchell, it’s hard not to notice how well the stars are aligning for this Celtics squad. Even with Kristaps Porzingis, Cleveland lacked the firepower to keep pace with this group. They also lack creativity in their plans to unbalance the Celtics. That should lead to predictable results throughout this series, as evidenced by a Game 1 where Jayson Tatum didn’t even play well and Boston ran away with it.

With the Celtics headed to the Eastern Finals barring disaster, a look at the rest of the NBA playoff should spark little fear among the major title favorites. The Knicks are up 1-0 over the Pacers in the other East series, but they will now be left in their top two for the remainder of the postseason, with Mitchell Robinson joining Julius Randle as he is out.

New York is playing well, but depth is already in short supply as injuries pile up and on paper they shouldn’t pose much of a challenge to Boston. The same goes for an emerging Pacers team headlined by Tyrese Halliburton, who looked like a shadow of his former self in the second half of the season.

Meanwhile, the Western Conference is throwing up plenty of surprises that could be in Boston’s favor. Defending champion Nuggets are down 2-0 against the Wolves amid injuries to their backcourt and subpar performances from players like Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. Murray is dealing with a calf injury and his play shows that. Denver won the season series against Boston, but it seems unlikely they will escape the second round after digging themselves a big hole.

Another MVP candidate from the West is also dealing with injury as Luka Doncic and the Mavericks dropped Game 1 to the Thunder on Tuesday night. Doncic (19 points on 19 shots) is shooting just 38 percent from the field since suffering a knee injury in Game 3 against the Clippers. He joins a long list of stars who looked like themselves this postseason.

All of this sets the stage for a Celtics team that has as favorable a path to the NBA Finals as we’ve seen in the years ahead. The Wolves or Thunder could be a tough test in a potential NBA Finals matchup, but neither team has proven itself on that stage, which could bode well for Boston.

Like the Nuggets last season, the Celtics appear poised to avoid much wear and tear heading into that showdown in the coming weeks. If Game 1 against the Cavs was any indication, they’ll have to break a lot of sweat along the way, knowing they won’t let their guard down after recent playoff disappointments.

“Anything can happen,” Jaylen Brown said. “It’s the NBA playoffs. We just take it one game at a time and that’s all we can control. And we’re trying to come out and be the harder playing team. We stick to our agenda and let the chips fall where they may. It will be difficult for a team to have to beat us four times. But as long as we come out, we execute on both goals, we are the harder playing team. I think we are doing well.”