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Celtics Punk Cavs In Game 1

And they can do it again. And probably will.

May 14, 2018 - 10:03 am
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18. 17. 19. Those aren’t the numbers to my high school locker combination, they’re the points that Cleveland Cavaliers scored in the first, second, and fourth quarters of yesterday’s Game 1 in Boston. And here’s another one: 25. That’s how much they lost the series opener by. And it felt lot more like 50. 

Instead of giving you my assessment, let me turn it over to Tristan Thompson’s comments to ESPN for a quick moment. TT, what happened? “They punked us. Early and often.”

Truer words have never been spoken. Boston punked Cleveland. Early and often. And repeatedly. And in about a dozen different ways. 

I never want to read too much into the first basket of a game or a series, but Jaylen Brown collecting the opening tip and then beating two Cavs to the bucket was not a good omen for Cleveland.

Then there was Jaylen Brown to Al Horford.

Jaylen Brown going coast to coast!

And that was all in the first quarter. A first quarter where Boston took a 21-point lead and ended the game before the end of the quarter. Credit to the Celtics. Credit for being ready to play. But the Cavs didn’t even bother getting off the bus. They looked nothing like the team that smoked Toronto a round earlier. They looked like a team that looked at the Celtics, and saw No Kyrie, no Gordon Heyward, remembered LeBron was playing some of the best ball of his career and just decided no problem. But it was a real problem, because the Celtics pretty much erased LeBron. None of his supporting cast did a damn thing, none of them guarded anyone and they end up getting curb stomped.

Going into yesterday, there were a lot of people making a lot of noise about it being a short series. And it might still be a short series, just not the one that everyone thought. Because the buzz was that Cleveland had been so impressive against Toronto and that Boston was finally going to run out of magic.  

Because Boston’s 108-83 win made one thing very clear: these Celtics are not those Raptors. These Celtics are for real. They dealt with the Greek Freak. They dealt with Jo and Ben. And in Game 1, they dealt with LeBron.

Here are two other numbers: 15 and 7. Those are LeBron’s points and LeBron’s turnovers, respectively. The thinking had been that the Celtics would focus on Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, and JR Smith. Let LeBron do what he wanted, but shut down the Cavs shooters. Instead, Boston just shut down everyone. Including LeBron.

Yes, this team is young. Yes, they have some inexperience. But they also have crazy length, incredible closeout ability, and they act like they’ve been there before, even when they haven’t. And they obviously aren’t intimidated by LeBron. Not only are they not afraid of him, they want him. Esp. Marcus Morris, who was hyping himself before the series as one of the league’s best LeBron stoppers and then went out and proved it.

LeBron has been utterly transcendent in the first two rounds. It is no exaggeration to say that he played some of the greatest playoff basketball we’ve ever seen. But, it’s no exaggeration to say that yesterday was one of the worst playoff games he’s ever played. 

15 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, 7 turnovers, and a plus-minus of minus-32. Let me make it clear, this wasn’t about LeBron losing; it was about Boston winning and about Boston dominating at both ends. It was about Boston finding matchups they would win and absolutely killing Cleveland with them. No names mentioned. Kevin Love.

You know LeBron had a bad game when his lone highlight from the game, came after the game, when he was asked what happened at the start of the fourth quarter.

Okay. That was impressive. And not at all surprising what we know of LeBron’s mental approach and his insane basketball IQ. 

Speaking of great basketball IQs, Brad Stevens, what did you think of that 25-point Game 1 win over the greatest player of his generation? "We have a lot of room to improve from tonight."

The Celtics are absolutely relentless. And they will be the first ones to tell you that all they did was win one game. In their minds, they didn’t do anything special. 

Yes, they completely shut down the Cavs, but they expected to completely shut down the Cavs. You might have thought that Cleveland was favored in this series, but Boston didn’t. And all they did was hold homecourt for a game. Brad Stevens and LeBron will both tell you that. They’ll also tell you this series isn’t over after just one game. 

Everyone in that series knows that a 25-point loss counts as much as a 1-point loss. But for all of you, who didn’t believe in the Celtics before, better believe now. Because even without three key players, they are for real. They punked Cleveland. Early and often. And they can do it again. And probably will.