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Dose: Cavs Crush the Celtics

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Cavaliers 117, Celtics 104 (Cleveland leads the series 1-0)

It has become a theme of the 2017 postseason, as we witnessed another blowout on Wednesday night. The Cavs absolutely crushed the C’s, with the final score not truly indicative of just how lopsided this contest was for most of the evening.

With the Cavs not having played in nine days, Boston was surely hoping they would have an opportunity to knock off a rusty Cavaliers squad. In addition, the Celts came into the contest riding an incredible amount of momentum, having won Game 7 vs. Washington on Monday and then winning the NBA’s draft lottery on Tuesday.

However, LeBron James put an end to all that positivity awfully quick.

LeBron barreled into the paint at will and scored 15 points in the first quarter. The Cavs would eventually build a 26-point lead and never look back. King James finished with a monster line of 38 points (on 14-of-24 shooting from the floor and 9-of-11 from the charity stripe), nine rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one 3-pointer.

The Celtics simply had no answer for James. They tried a number of different defenders, but LeBron embarrassed them all. I suppose we shouldn’t be all that surprised, considering that he’s been playing at such an incredibly high level during these 2017 playoffs. LeBron has now scored more than 30 points in seven straight games this postseason. According to Basketball Reference, he joins Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon as just the third player in the last forty years with such a streak.

Wednesday night was also the 68th time in LeBron’s career in which he tallied at least 30 points, five rebounds and five assists in a playoff game. That is, by far, the most among all active players. Dating back to Michael Jordan’s rookie season in 1984, MJ has the second-most 30/5/5 playoff games with 51. Kobe Bryant is third on that list with 37.

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As dominant as LeBron was in Game 1, he had plenty of help. Kevin Love scored a playoff career-high 32 points. He knocked down 9-of-16 shots from the field and eight of his nine free throws. He also added 12 rebounds, six 3-pointers, one steal and one block. (Love is the first Cavalier other than LeBron to score 30 points and grab ten boards in a playoff game since Brad Daugherty in 1992.) Featuring Love was definitely part of the gameplan for the Cavs. Last week, when speaking with reporters, coach Tyronn Lue vowed to get Love more involved in the Cleveland attack in the Eastern Conference Finals. Love averaged just 13.8 points (on 9.9 FG attempts) and 9.1 boards in rounds one and two. "For me, some of it's my fault because we haven't really featured him a lot because of the matchups we had on other teams," said coach Lue. "In this next series, we have some matchups he can definitely take advantage of, and it's on me to make sure we do that." Well, that’s exactly what they did on Wednesday night. With the mismatches identified and Love’s confidence surging, expect Cleveland to continue to utilize a similar approach in Game 2 on Friday.

Love wasn’t the only Cavalier to set a career postseason-high on Wednesday. Tristan Thompson made all seven of his FG attempts and poured in 20 points, to go along with nine rebounds, two assists and two steals. Thompson bullied Boston on the boards all night and was a constant thorn in their side. The C’s began to intentionally foul him late in the game, with TT making six of his ten FT attempts.

Kyrie Irving was relatively quiet, finishing with 11 points, six assists, two rebounds and two steals. J.R. Smith (two points on just two FG attempts) was invisible. The Cavs simply didn’t need the typical offensive production they expect from their guards.

The Cavs are now a perfect 9-0 this postseason. As we know, the Warriors are also undefeated at 10-0. According to ESPN Stats and Info, this is the first time in postseason history where two teams have started 9-0 or better. With each passing day, it appears more and more likely that these two teams are on a collision course to once again meet in the Finals.

The Celtics obviously have no intention of making it easy for Cleveland. However, they looked outclassed on Wednesday. What’s worse, they spent five months working to earn homecourt advantage in the East, only to give it away in 48 minutes.

Isaiah Thomas’ play is usually a pretty good indicator of how the Celtics will fare, especially at home where the crowd feeds off his energy and enthusiasm. IT struggled early and never got it going in Game 1. He was just 7-of-19 from the field and finished with 17 points, 10 assists, one rebound and four turnovers. The Cavs ran two defenders at him most of the night, forcing other Celtics to beat them. Thomas also was unable to get to the free throw line. He was just 1-of-3 from the stripe. Expect him to bounce back in Game 2.

Game 7 hero Kelly Olynyk came crashing back down to earth. He ended the night with just two points, three rebounds and three assists in 16 minutes. Amir Johnson started and played the first five minutes, but was yanked after he allowed Tristan Thompson to corral a few offensive rebounds. Coach Brad Stevens sat Johnson the rest of the night.

Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley tied for team-high scoring honors. Crowder tallied 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Bradley had four rebounds and two 3-pointers to go along with his 21 points.

Jaylen Brown was the most pleasant surprise of the night for the Celtics. He racked up 10 points (on 5-of-7 shooting), nine rebounds and one assist in 20 minutes off the Boston bench. He also played spirited defense against LeBron at times. It's safe to assume Brown earned more minutes going forward. We shall see if he will be able to continue to produce.

The other positive for Celtics fans to consider is that Boston missed a bunch of wide-open shots they normally knock down. The C’s were just 3-of-13 on uncontested 3-pointers in Game 1. It’s unlikely they remain that cold on Friday night.

Here’s the full schedule for the remaining games in this series:
Game 2: Friday, May 19 at Boston, 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 3: Sunday, May 21 at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 4: Tuesday, May 23 at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 5*: Thursday, May 25 at Boston, 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 6*: Saturday, May 27 at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 7*: Monday, May 29 at Boston, 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT

 




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