Highlights courtesy of MLG Highlights
1. Well, needless to say we weren’t expecting this one. Along with one of their best halves of offensive basketball all season the Celtics straight up put on a clinic on the defensive end holding a mostly potent Cavaliers O to one of their worst output in a long time. We’ll definitely get to their super efficient and frankly pretty damned explosive scoring effort but first we must give effort where effort is due.
If you look at the most superficial defensive stats it wouldn’t appear that the Celtics had an otherworldly performance on D. But the devils are in the details my friends. The Cs had 6 steals and 4 blocks but what best tells the story is the 36% field goal percentage they held the Cavs to as well as the paltry 15% from three. This is normally the point in the recap where I say that this is an anomaly and probably will not happen again. Well, part of this is true. While I don’t see the Cavs posting these sorry-ass numbers again I can say with confidence that I can fathom them not blowing Boston off of the court anytime throughout this series.
The Celtics were relentless from tip-off. Given how they are uniquely built to guard the best player on the planet LeBron James (I’ll definitely get into this later) it in turn made it a LONG afternoon for everyone draped in the wine and gold. In a move that would be considered basketball suicide for most the Cs decided not to hard double James and helped only when absolutely needed. The key to this is that they have enough strong on ball defenders to guard Bron be it straight up or on help.
Doing this palliated the force in which James usually plays with and since their defense did not have to collapse to account for him it let to bad shots and passes to heavily guarded shooters. And needless to say those well covered shooters didn’t have the best day. In transition they disrupted passing lanes thus shunting off those easy baskets forcing them to play a slower game which they are ill-equipped to do without a dominant James. In my preview I mentioned that this would be the ultimate brains vs. brawn matchup and today’s result proves this to be correct for now. Boston made one heel of a chess move to start, they should just hope the Cavs don’t get pissed off and flip the board over.
2. Aside from smothering the Cavs into submission defensively the Celtics looked especially spry putting the ball in the basket. Producing three 20 point scorers and using a first half in which they shot a blistering 61% from the floor they matched the intensity they showed on the other side of the floor. Despite a slightly cooler second half they still finished with splits of 51-37-85. Not bad at all.
Jaylen Brown was high man for the game scoring 23 points and tallying 8 boards on 9 of 16 shooting including 3 of 5 from deep. With each passing game he’s easing concerns over his ailing hamstring. With most of his game linked to his explosion it was good to see him moving as well as he did and blasting past dudes. “Big” Al Horford continued to be a silent killer for the Cs in the playoffs as he put up an efficient 20 points on 8 of 10 from the field to go with 6 assists and Jayson Tatum continues to look like the most poised rookie ever with 16 and 6. “Scary” Terry Rozier didn’t have a great night scoring that ball but did toss 8 assists to match his 8 points and was tough on D.
But it was the LeBron killer himself (just joking folks) that really raised eyebrows here. Marcus Morris (somewhat) delivered on his promise and went off for 21 and 10. In 34 minutes Morris played impressive defense on James and others while going for 7 of 12 from the floor and 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. The reason I saved Morris for last is because in a series full of x-factors he may be the biggest. Morris isn’t intimidated by James and believe me it trickles down to everyone. And while it’s a fools errand to believe that you can shut down Bron Bron it helps to have someone crazy enough to think they can. Hell, it almost worked in the first round against a far lesser team.
3. Speaking of LeBron James, he had a bad game. No y’all like a really bad game. Like 15 points on 5 of 16 shooting and 9 turnovers bad. Yeesh! Two things here, one there is almost no way this performance will be duplicated and two while this may be duplicated per se I can see this being one of the hardest series of James’ career. Although the Cavs will most definitely score more than 83 points per game for the rest of this series Boston is playing a very sustainable style of defense that can be duplicated over and over and over again. Bron won’t miss wide open shots and he will be more of a threat facilitating. The only difference here is Boston won’t make the mistakes that normally makes it easy for James to get into a groove. He’ll have to work for everything he gets.
Kevin Love was the leading scorer for Cleveland putting up 17 and 8 which was the lone bright spot for a Cavs starting five that only accounted for 14 points outside of Bron and K Love. In a pretty surprising turn the bench mob wasn’t terrible. However, they did turn it up a little too late. Rodney “I’m So” Hood unquit long enough to produce 11 points in 18 minutes and although he stunk on defense Jordan Clarkson cobbled together 10 points. Tristan “TrashGawd” Thompson-Kardashian(?) may have earned a larger role going forward with an 8 and 11 effort in 20 minutes. Other than that it’s as bad as it looks. The Cavs have a lot to figure out and fast. And it will be harder than it looks as Boston will not bask in a game 1 win. They too will adjust.