Some say that having time off before a playoff series can be a bad thing. Too much time away from the intensity of playoff basketball. Easy to get rusty and come out of the gates slow when you finally come around to playing again. Even LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers said he’d rather keep playing than have 10-days off. But LeBron James is LeBron James, and his Cavs are something else entirely.
Last night presented us with the number 1 and 2 seeds from the Eastern Conference facing off in the Conference Finals. The Boston Celtics’ phenomenal regular season led them to their first no.1 seeding since 2008, just the teams second since 1988. They were able to just top the Cavaliers of first place, who finished just behind the C’s in the East.
Cleveland were coming off a 4-0 sweep of the Toronto Raptors and have had a huge 10-day rest since their 2nd round series ended. Whereas the Celtics battled through a tough, physical series against the Washington Wizards which went the distant. Some say the Cavs would be rusty, and may have lost the intensity of the playoffs by having such a substantial amount of time away. Then there were others who said the Celtics would be tired, gassed from the lengthy, rough series. The time for talking was over. The players decide the outcome, not reporters.
It wasn’t the Cavs who looked rusty or out of sorts. It was in fact the Celtics. Perhaps suffering from the physicality and mental toughness required from their previous series against Washington, the C’s got served up a cold dose of reality. They were steamrolled from the outset, as Cleveland pulled out to a 30-19 first quarter lead. If that wasn’t a message sent from the Cavaliers then I don’t know what is. 10-days off or not, they meant business and Celtics weren’t prepared.
LeBron James stole the show, and as expected was the catalyst behind his teams game 1 victory. He finished with 38 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists in an unstoppable performance that left many Boston players as still as spectators. The Cavaliers’ Big-Three all fed off each other, as Kevin Love’s distance shooting was on point, as he drained six 3-pointers for 31 points of his own. Kyrie Irving was kept relatively quiet, but with his 11 points, the Cavs Big-Three combined for 81-points on the night. Unstoppable.
It seemed too little too late for the Celtics, as they didn’t seem to wake-up until the third quarter. They stumbled for most of the first half, putting up just 39 first half points. Only two C’s players reached 20+ points, and despite Isaiah Thomas’ double-double (17p, 10a) he was unable to put the team on his back again.
One bright spark for the Celtics was rookie Jaylen Brown who put up 10 points, 9 rebounds and an assist in just 19 minutes of game time. He was also assigned to James for a few possessions of last night game, where he held his own on a couple of occasions. Both Brown and James put together quite a dual for small parts of game 1. Perhaps more game time is to come for the Celtics star rookie.
Overall it was a bitterly disappointing game 1 for Boston, who expected a lot more from themselves. Even though they’re the number 1 seed, they’re 100% underdogs in this series. But people have written them off all season, and they’ve continued to prove people wrong. They must continue to thrive off of the underdog mantra, because this series could be over very fast.
Game 2 is Friday.