The last time LeBron James suited up in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform in the postseason was back on May 13, 2010 in a series-ending 94-85 loss against the Boston Celtics.
Boston’s Big Three proved to be too much for James, spiraling Cleveland’s future title hopes into oblivion when The King took his talents to South Beach … until this year when James returned. It only feels fitting that James’s first postseason opponent back in Cleveland is Boston.
The postseason history for the Cleveland-Boston matchup isn’t as intense or extensive compared to other illustrious postseason matchups, and it has been the Celtics that have been the dominant team in their limited postseason matchups.
These two teams have matched up in the postseason at least one time per decade since the 1970s, with James’s Cavs matching up with them twice in 2008 and 2010.
Boston holds an 18-12 record against Cleveland in the postseason with a 4-1 series record. The one series loss came against the 91-92 Cavs that featured Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance, Craig Ehlo, Mark Price and Hot Rod Williams. That Cleveland squad went on to lose to the eventual NBA champions, the Chicago Bulls.
However, it’s the likes of Celtics greats such as Jo Jo White, John Havlicek, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (as well as their teammates, of course) that typically came out on top and made deep postseason runs in the process.
Out of the four times Boston defeated Cleveland in the playoffs, they went on to the NBA Finals all four times, winning twice.
Boston’s illustrious championship history is something Cleveland fans can only dream of. With a transcendent talent in James, expectations have never been higher in Cleveland, making their prior losses even more heartbreaking.
At 25 years old in 2010, James walked through the tunnel after Game 6 and took off his Cavs uniform possibly knowing that 94-85 loss to the behemoth in Boston could have been his last game in that uniform.
Three years prior, Cleveland was seen as the next up-and-coming team! With an unbelievable postseason run, a 22-year old James put the proverbial team on his back, leading the Cavs to their first ever NBA Finals appearance as the Cavaliers:
It’s called the LeBron Era for a reason. It was James vs. the mighty Celtics then, but now, James and his Cavs are on top of the totem pole, while the Celtics are towards the bottom. We can’t discredit James’s time in Miami as they eliminated Boston in back-to-back years, once in the Eastern Conference Finals, but the focus here is on Cleveland.
From crushing his spirit in his first Cleveland stint to bowing down in defeat while he was in Miami, this is a Celtics franchise that has frustrated James time and time again. They’ve managed to do that this year, too, defeating the Cavaliers twice to split the season series, although James was out of the lineup for the fourth and final matchup.
Can Boston do it again?
Although they might not have the best shot at defeating Cleveland, or any shot at all, the Celtics are in prime position, similar to where James was in his first stint with Cleveland. Rising star, or in this case, rising team; a David vs. Goliath type matchup with toughness that could potentially replicate the intensity from the last Cleveland-Boston postseason meeting.
Or even the one from 2008:
Right now, it’s Cleveland and James’s moment to shine. The Vegas favorite could finally bring that coveted championship home, but Boston isn’t too far away. With a star in head coach Brad Stevens and a young nucleus, Boston will be on top of the totem pole once again very soon.