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Stevens: Celtics Will Have To 'Mix It Up' On Defense Against LeBron

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Celtics are back in the postseason for the first time under Brad Stevens, but Boston's first-round foe will give them plenty of problems.

For Stevens, some of those problems could potentially come off the court.

The 40-win Celtics earned the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, matching them up with the two-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round. LeBron James and company will be a handful for Stevens to deal with on the floor, but he may also have a problem at home thanks to the playoff series.

Maybe the only thing worse than having to game plan for James and Co. is dealing with in-laws whose allegiance rests with the opposition.

"My wife is from Cleveland," Stevens explained to 98.5 The Sports Hub's Zolak and Bertrand on Thursday, "so her whole family still lives there and we've spent a lot of time there. We don't get too high or too low."

But that isn't going to rattle the second-year head coach's cage. His Celtics battled throughout the second half of the season, winning 23 games since February 3, to claw into the playoffs, and the underdogs won't be going down without a fight.

"We're excited to still be playing, no question about that. Anytime you have a chance to play beyond the regular season, that's a good thing. Hopefully we can find a way to play well," said Stevens. "These guys have done a good job at that these last three months, so that's what we're going to try to do."

The Celtics won't hit the floor for Game 1 in Cleveland until Sunday, and Stevens likened this schedule to Selection Sunday in the college game. He said properly using their days off is an important part of preparing for their series with the Cavs.

"There are two things we have to be mindful of; we need to prepare well and we need to rest. We need to play fresh with a clear mind and with the energy we've been playing with," he said. "We have to be our best, because that's what it's going to take."

It will probably take Boston's best effort, and then a lot more to slow down James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and that might not even work.

"The biggest thing when you have a guy like James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, is you have to be content with making it as difficult as possible, and understand that they're going to make some super human plays," said Stevens. "Those can't dispirit you or dishearten you, you just have to take control of the things you can control. You have to be back [on defense], you have to make it as difficult as possible, you have to get bodies on shots to not allow second chance points. You have to do all those little things to take away the plays where you can make an impact on the play, because those guys are going to do things that you can't do anything about."

Stevens said you can't give them a steady dose of any one player on defense, so guarding LeBron and others will be a full team effort. He said forward Jae Crowder will likely be guarding numerous positions throughout the series.

"He'll defend LeBron some. Nobody is going to be able to defend him 1-on-1 for entire games or an entire series. The biggest thing is you have to mix it up, show him different looks," said Stevens. "Jae will be one of them but he'll probably guard Love, their 5's, and maybe for a few possessions he guards Irving. That's Jae's greatest strength on defense, his versatility."


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