The Cleveland Cavaliers showed no signs of rust after a nine-day layoff between rounds, as the defending champs jumped out to a 61-39 lead heading into halftime and cruised to a 117-104 win on the road in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Boston.
LeBron James scored 38 points, marking the eighth time in nine Playoff games this year in which he’s eclipsed 30 points.
He’s averaging 34.7 points per game in the Playoffs.
Kevin Love erupted for a Playoff career high 32 points (18 of which came in the third quarter). It was no coincidence that the last time he played a postseason game in Boston was the first round of 2015, when he suffered a year-ending shoulder injury after a controversial play involving Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk, who was accused of committing a dirty play to injure the power forward.
Tristan Thompson was a handful for the Celtics to deal with, as well, scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds (six of which were offensive boards).
The game was more of the same for the way Cleveland’s postseason has been going, but Boston did show signs of life in the second half, sparked by Avery Bradley (21 points), Jae Crowder (21 points), Jaylen Brown (10 points) and Gerald Green (11 points).
Marcus Smart also provided a boost of energy and was not afraid to get in Thompson’s face in the third quarter, which brought the crowd back into the game.
For as much as the game was a dominant wire-to-wire victory for the Cavs, the Celtics may have built some positive momentum heading into Game 2 and most importantly didn’t lay down after trailing by as many as 28 points.
On a night when the Celtics received less than stellar play from their two main stars – Isaiah Thomas (17 points) and Al Horford (11 points), the roleplayers stepped up to at least make the score look less embarrassing than the actual game itself.
Boston’s going to need Thomas playing at a superstar level to have a chance in this series and any time Horford is held silent it’s that much tougher for the Celtics to get over the hump even against teams like the Washington Wizards – let alone the Cavs.
Watching the game, it’d be easy to understand if no one noticed Kyrie Irving’s presence for the Cavs. He only scored 11 points on the night.
The Cavs shot 11-for-31 from three-point range as a team and when you factor that into how much of a blowout the game turned into, it doesn’t bode well for the Celtics on how the game could have turned out if Irving was hitting shots or if three pointers were falling more for the Cavs.
We’ll see if Thomas can pick up his play in Game 2 and if the Celtics can bounce back to even the series at one apiece on Friday night, but one thing appears to be as close to a guarantee as you’ll find in the NBA: nobody can stop LeBron when he’s playing like this and in the Eastern Conference, it really might just be that simple.