2024 NBA Playoffs Takeaways: Boston is NBA’s best team, but do they scare anyone?

Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four
Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four

Things move fast in the NBA playoffs, so to help you stay on top of everything, from now through at least the end of the second round, we will have nightly takeaways from the postseason action.

Boston is NBA’s best team, but do they scare anyone?

Boston won 64 games this past season, seven games better than the second-best record in the league (Oklahoma City) and 14 games better than anyone in the East. The Celtics had the best offense in the NBA's history (statistically), the second-best defense in the league, and a +11.7 net rating that ranks them among the best regular-season teams ever.

In the playoffs, the Celtics are 7-2 with an even better +12.3 net rating. On paper, they are dominant.

Yet, do the Celtics scare anyone?

Boston has not passed the eye test this postseason. The Celtics keep winning and putting up impressive stat lines, but they have not looked dominant or intimidating.

They certainly did not Monday night against a shorthanded Cavaliers team playing without Donovan Mitchell. Celtics apologists can point out they got a seven point win on the road thanks to 33 points from Jayson Tatum, and they now have 3-1 series lead over the Cavaliers.

However, that was an unimpressive, uninspiring win.

"It took us a little while to get going and stop ball-watching and play some basketball," Jaylen Brown said.

Boston will likely end this series against Cleveland at home on Wednesday night. They will get plenty of time off to rest before facing a shorthanded and limping Knicks team or a good-but-flawed Pacers team — Boston should have little problem with either of them, putting the Celtics into the NBA Finals.

Whichever team comes out of the West into the Finals will have had to walk through the fire to be there. Iron sharpens iron, and the team that comes out of the West will be Ninja Sword sharp, having had to run a gauntlet of high-quality, physical teams to be there.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals could be a culture shock for Boston. The Celtics will have to start playing with real urgency, and it can't give away a game in the series and still win comfortably.

Maybe the Celtics have another gear, perhaps they can play with the fire and urgency needed to win an NBA title.

But we haven't seen it yet, and they aren't scaring anyone.

LeBron James sits courtside for Celtics/Cavs. What does it mean?

It'd be easy to say, "LeBron James was back home in Ohio, is a student who loves the game, and just decided to see some playoff basketball. It's nothing."

Except it never feels like nothing when it's LeBron.

LeBron can opt out of his contract with the Lakers this summer. The Cavaliers are headed into a summer of change one way or another, depending upon whether Donovan Mitchell chooses to sign an extension to stay in Cleveland. It's not hard for fans to connect the dots.

The Lakers want LeBron James back on whatever terms he wants, but for LeBron it's not about the money, it's about the Lakers organization doing everything possible this summer to put a contender on the court next season (in a deep and difficult West). New coach, getting a third star to take some of the shot creation pressure off him, adding shooting and defense.

LeBron doesn't have to come out and demand those things. He can just show up courtside back in Cleveland and the message will be received — he has options.