The Cleveland Cavaliers announced Tuesday morning that Kevin Love underwent arthroscopic surgery and will miss six weeks. That means he will miss the All-Star Game, most of March, and in the event of a setback, the run-up to the playoffs. That means Boston is going to move into first place in the East, and will enjoy home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference finals. That means Boston has a legitimate chance to win the title. This is The Ringer’s darkest timeline.
The Celtics lost their first two matchups against the Cavs this season, but just narrowly. Their next two games are on March 1 and April 5, in Boston. Assuming all key players are active (excluding Love, who will surely miss the first and maybe the second), the teams will get to feel each other out in a pre-playoffs exercise. If there’s a point guard who could give National TV Kyrie Irving some problems, it’s Isaiah Thomas. He’s crafty and quick, and while Irving is kryptonite for a player like Steph Curry, the King of the Fourth isn’t scared of Uncle Drew. In our darkest timeline, the Celtics defeat the Cavs in the ECF.
That brings us to the Finals, where Boston would meet presumptive Western Conference champion Golden State. Last week on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Bill argued to Steve Kerr that Brad Stevens was responsible for showing the 2016 Cavs how to defeat the 2016 Warriors.
Yes, Simmons often invokes the Celtics. Good point, coach, but he’s on to something here. Last season, the Warriors eked out a win in the two teams’ first meeting, but then Stevens managed to get a win against Golden State last April, when the Warriors were already history-bound and seemingly unstoppable. Why couldn’t Stevens do it again, across a seven-game series? The playoffs are all about adjustments, and there’s no coach better at tinkering than Stevens.
Can the sports universe survive two Boston titles in the same calendar year? I hope we never find out, but fear we will. To my colleagues (and friends) Bill Simmons and Kevin O’Connor, consider this a reverse jinx.