LeBron James Marcus Morris
Lebron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket past Marcus Morris #13 of the Boston Celtics during the first quarter of a game at TD Garden on Feb. 11, 2018 in Boston. Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The conference finals begin Sunday afternoon when the Boston Celtics host the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s the second season in a row that the two teams will meet with a chance to go to the NBA Finals, though plenty has changed over the last year.

Boston and Cleveland swapped Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving in the offseason, and neither player will be part of the series. Jayson Tatum is the Celtics’ leading scorer this postseason, having joined the team just last summer as the No.3 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. LeBron James is still the best player in the series, and he might be better than he’s ever been.

With all that said, the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals is similar to last year’s series in plenty of ways, as well.

The Celtics have home-court advantage again, but the Cavs are the prohibitive favorites to win the East. Cleveland is a 1.5-point favorite in Game 1, according to OddsShark, and the over/under is 204.

Despite being the No.2 seed, Boston has become used to the betting line not being in their favor. They opened as underdogs in every single game of the second round. The Celtics needed just five games to beat the Philadelphia 76ers.

Cleveland took care of Boston in five games last year, going 3-0 at TD Garden. None of those games were close as the Cavs won on the road by an average of 30 points.

The Cavs will probably go on to win the series, but the Celtics should show much better effort than they did a year ago.

For starters, Cleveland isn’t nearly as good this season. The loss of Irving has been noticeable at times, and the Cavs nearly didn’t make it out of the first round against the Indiana Pacers. LeBron James had to carry an unusually heavy load in that series, and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will find a way to exploit Cleveland if that’s the case again.

Kevin Love finally arrived in the second round, and Kyle Korver has proven to be a solid third option for the Cavs. That could be the difference in a close Game 1.

James will enter the series opener with nearly a week of rest. He was clearly gassed in Game 1 of the second round against the Toronto Raptors when he had just one day off following a grueling series. The league’s best player should be at his best Sunday afternoon.

Game 1 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. EDT on ABC. A live stream will be available with WatchESPN.

Prediction: Cleveland over Boston, 100-96