ESPN analyst Paul Pierce didn’t hesitate to give his old team more than a puncher’s chance against the Eastern Conference titan Cleveland Cavaliers, not only liking the Boston Celtics’ chances to dethrone the Cavs, but also taking Al Horford over Kevin Love in the big-man battle.

via Charlie Malam of The Express:

“If you look down, I’ll take [Al] Horford over Kevin Love,” said Pierce unequivocally in the set of The Jump. “The way Tatum’s been playing, Rozier, nobody on Cleveland is playing as well as those guys and they have the advantage pretty much every night at coaching.

“Ty Lue’s a great coach but Brad Stevens is the best coach in basketball right now. No offense to [San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg] Popovich, but he’s the best coach in the NBA and that says a lot.”

“Look at what he’s doing with the Celtics. If they end up in the Finals? Come on.”

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The Celtics might have struggled to get out of the first round, but those games of experience have only aided their young players into more capable cogs down the stretch, now at the verge of a series-closing win at the TD Garden.

Boston jumped up to a 3-0 lead, thanks to several clutch plays by Horford, the resident veteran of the team, who has punished teams inside and outside, proving to be a well-rounded threat.

Love has had one of his best series against the Toronto Raptors, but he was non-existent against the Indiana Pacers in the first round, which has made Pierce pick consistency over streakiness.