Jared Johnson

Basketball Daily Dose

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Dose: Celtics Take Game 1

Monday, May 14, 2018


Celtics take Game 1, 108-83

 

Jaylen Brown and Al Horford combined for 43 points in Sunday’s Game 1 victory over the Cavaliers, with Brown scoring a team and game-high 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting (2-of-2 from the stripe) to go with three 3-pointers, eight rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and two turnovers in just 28 minutes of floor time; and Horford finishing with 20 points, two triples, four boards, six assists, two blocks and zero turnovers in 27 minutes. Brown and Horford provided a nice one-two punch for Boston early, as they jumped out to an 18-point lead in the first quarter and finished the first half with a 26-point advantage; the worst such deficit that LeBron James has faced throughout his postseason career. Brown had more than his fair share of highlight reel plays in the blowout win, but I thought his best sequence came late in the second quarter when he swatted away Kevin Love’s shot and then ran back and buried a jay right in Kyle Korver’s face on the other end of the floor:

 


 

Horford was in can’t-miss-mode, going 8-of-10 from the field, 2-of-4 from long-range and 2-of-3 from the stripe for an elite 88.3 true shooting percentage. It’s kind of amazing to me how under-hyped Horford tends to be around the league, but let’s make no mistakes about it he’s easily one of the top-5 bigs in the league. Brad Stevens showered him with praise after the game, saying: "Al's important to everything we do, every minute of every day… Both ends of the floor, he covered for us a lot defensively. He did a great job when he switched. He did a great job when he was in help. He's our rock. He's the guy we really, really lean on.” Yup and he came through in a big way as evidenced in the shot chart below:

 

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While it was Horford and Brown coming through early for the Celtics, it was Jayson Tatum who served as their closer, scoring seven of his 16 points through the final frame of action to go with two 3-pointers, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block and two turnovers across 37 minutes. The Cavs went on a bit of a run to open the second half after being badly embarrassed through the first half of action, but just when the game began to tilt in their direction, Tatum came through with some clutch buckets to ensure the victory for Boston. Marcus Morris also played quite well, replacing Aron Baynes (four points, eight boards, two assists, two steals, one block) in the starting five on his way to 21 points, 10 rebounds, three 3-pointers and just one turnover in 34 minutes.

 

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The Celtics played some suffocating defense in the win, shutting down the corner 3 (and the 3-point shot in general), clogging up the passing lanes, and they also weren’t afraid to bring the double-team whenever Kevin Love or LeBron James got the rock in good position thus forcing The Other Cavs to try and beat them. Credit to Brad Stevens for yet another excellent display of game planning.

 

“I have zero level of concern at this stage.”

                                                            -LeBron James

 

LeBron James was held to just 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting (5-of-6 from the stripe) in the blowout loss, adding seven rebounds, nine assists, two blocks and an unfortunate seven turnovers through 36 minutes of floor time, but he didn’t appear to be overly concerned about the loss after the game, saying: “For me, Game 1 has always been a feel out game for me, if you follow my history. I got a good sense of how they played me today and how they’re going to play me for Game 2." What James would describe as feeling things out others may describe as passive, but it was clear that the Celtics gave him trouble by taking away his driving lanes and forcing him to make a lot of tough decisions on the offensive end. He also didn’t receive much help from his teammates, with the Cavs collectively going 4-of-26 (15.4%) from long-range and 31-of-86 (36.0%) from the field, and Kevin Love, Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson being the only other Cleveland players to reach double-figures in the scoring department (although inefficiently). James is right to not panic after just one game, but the No. 2 seeded Celtics flexed their muscles in the Game 1 win, with LBJ and his teammates wilting under the pressure. Love (17 points, eight boards, three assists, one turnover; 5-of-14 shooting) will absolutely need to be better for the rest of the series for Cleveland to have a chance, but I’m not sure you can rely on any of the other Cavaliers consistently coming through in the Eastern Conference Finals. That means James will need to do some serious heavy lifting if he wants to reach the Finals for the eighth year in a row, and I think he knows that, so watch out for some video game-like stat lines from the King moving forward.

 

Injury Report

 

Shane Larkin (shoulder) did not play in Game 1 on Sunday and he’ll remain on the sidelines for Game 2 on Tuesday. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to get back to the court at any point during the Eastern Conference Finals, which will lead to heavy minutes for Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart.

 

Excluding Patrick McCaw (bruised back), both the Rockets and Warriors will have all of their guys available for Monday’s Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.



A hoops fanatic, Jared Johnson has been a member of the Rotoworld team since 2013. Follow him on Twitter @JaredJ831, and feel free to send him your questions regarding trades, draft strategies and all things fantasy basketball.
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