NBA Preview: The Celtics need to find a way to derail LeBron James and the Cavaliers to have any chance of making this a competitive series.
#2 Cleveland Cavaliers (60-31) at #1 Boston Celtics (61-35), Friday, 8:30 p.m. EST
Line: Cavaliers -5. Total 219.
Series: Cavaliers lead 1-0.
Game 2 will probably be Boston’s best chance to win a game in this series.
That statement is not a knock on the talent level of the Celtics. Boston has a very good team. Many people picked the Wizards to knock the Celtics off in the conference semifinals. However, the Cavaliers and especially LeBron James are simply on another level.
Boston does not have anyone who can guard King James. Consequently, LeBron toyed with the Celtics defense at times. James messed around and scored 38 points, grabbed 9 boards and dished out 7 assists. He shot at least 50% from the field for the ninth straight playoff game, going 14-for-24 (58.3%).
Kevin Love was scorching hot from beyond the arc, especially in the third quarter for the Cavaliers. Love was 5-for-7 shooting three-pointers in the third quarter, while shooting 6-for-9 for the game from three-point land. Love finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds for the game.
Tristan Thompson was all over the court for the Cavs. He was all over the offensive glass, too, grabbing 6 offensive rebounds. Thompson was 7-for-7 from the field and scored 20 points. He was aggressive switching on the Boston pick-and-rolls. Thompson did not give any space to Boston’s Isaiah Thomas when he ended up guarding the Celtics point guard on switches.
Kyrie Irving had a pedestrian game for Cleveland with 11 points and 6 assists. However, Irving did not have to do much as he deferred to LeBron, Love and Thompson in Game 1.
For the Celtics, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley scored 21 points apiece. Crowder got hot from beyond the arc in the second half, going 4-of-5 from three-point land. Thomas only shot 7-for-19 for the game and finished with 17 points. He admitted after the game that he needs to shoot better.
Boston did shoot a lot better in the second half. The Celtics shot 25-for-43 from the field (58.1%) and 10-for-22 from three-point land (45.5%). However, the problem is that Boston was down 22 points going into the second half. When the Cavaliers were playing hard in the first half, the Celtics only shot 35.6% from the field and 12.5% from beyond the arc.
So did Boston do enough in the second half to warrant enough confidence from anyone to believe that they can beat Cleveland in Game 2 and even the series?
The Celtics know that if they lose Game 2, the series is over. Heck, they may collectively already know the series is over, but they are not going to admit it publicly. Boston will fight hard and give everything they have in Game 2 in hopes of making this a series. However, there is one big problem and he wears #23 in the dark blue uniforms.
How does Boston stop the freight train who is LeBron James? The Celtics had no answer for him in Game 1. Celtics Coach Brad Stevens will have to figure out a way to get the ball out of LeBron’s hands and keep it out of his hands. King James has scored at least 32 points in every playoff game this postseason except for Game 2 against Indiana in the first round. James still had 25 points, 10 boards, 7 assists, 4 blocks and 4 steals, but he also had 8 turnovers in that game.
Coach Stevens may want to glance at the film from that game.
Normally, this would be a let-down situation for the Cavaliers after a dominant road win in Game 1. Most teams would ease their foot off the gas pedal in Game 2 because they have taken away home-court advantage from their opponent. However, Cleveland is now 9-0 this postseason and would love to match Golden State’s 10-0 start. Therein lies the motivation for the Cavs to win Game 2. Cleveland wants to keep pace with the Warriors and that motivational factor may be just enough to overcome the nice bounce-back spot for the Celtics in Game 2 after getting trounced in Game 1.
My postseason record: 16-7 (+$745).
No play tonight although I have a lean to the Cavaliers.
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