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    Draper: Even w/ Kyrie Irving “I’m Still Giving the Edge to Cavaliers”

    With or without Kyrie Irving -- tough road ahead for Boston Celtics

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    You can count Celtics TV analyst Kyle Draper among those concerned about the Celtics playoff prospects.  Though the team has played extremely well through an avalanche of injuries (Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris) the playoffs are a different animal.  And Draper frankly isn’t bullish about any first round matchup, especially if Irving is not ready to return from a recent procedure on his knee.

    “I’m going to be honest,” said Draper. “I don’t like any of the matchups in the first round.”

    The host of Celtics Pre and Post game live for NBC Sports Boston joined Adam Kaufman on the Celtics Beat podcast on CLNS Media.

    With the Celtics virtually locked into the two seed in the Eastern Conference the Celtics realistically will play one of three teams in round one.  The Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards, and Miami Heat.  The team Draper says he fears most may surprise you.

    “Worst case scenario is Miami.  (Eric) Spoelstra is a great coach.  They have so many interchangeable players. So many guys that can do so many different things.  They always play the Celtics tough.”

    Though Draper sees any potential playoff matchup as challenging, a first round exit – even for a depleted and potentially Kyrie-less Celtics team – would be tough to swallow.

    “I think if they lose in the first round it would be a disappointment in my eyes,” Draper tells Kaufman.  “They’ve proven they can win without some of their best players (Portland, Utah) If you go into the first round and you don’t win that series I don’t think you can say Aw shucks we were hurt, that a built-in excuse.”

    And if Kyrie does make it back in time for the second round, the Celtics could be looking at a date with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Even at full strength that’s going to be a difficult series for the Celtics to win.

    “Even with Kyrie back in that second round I’m still giving the edge to the Cavs,” said Draper. “Just because of LeBron James being able to go to even a higher level in the first round.”

    Draper is however a little concerned with rushing Irving back for any playoff series if his injured knee is not fully healed.

    “You have to wonder, do they really think that they can win a championship now?” said Draper.  “Because I maintain that with Kyrie it’s not about this year because really what you’re setting yourself up for is next year when you have Gordon Hayward back.  Next year is going to be the year where you’re going to be the favorites in the Eastern Conference.  So you don’t want to do anything that will jeopardize the future just for this season.”