Wrap-Up – One year ago in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavaliers beat the Celtics by an average of 30 points per in three Playoff matchups at TD Garden. But they say that turnabout is fair play.
The Celtics jumped all over Cleveland early and never let up – taking Game 1 in convincing fashion, 108-83, on Sunday afternoon in Boston.
The Cavaliers led by three in the first three minutes of the affair, but that’s as good as it’d get for the Wine & Gold – who trailed by as many as 28 points in the first half and emptied their bench after falling behind by 29 in the fourth quarter. Cleveland also went cold from beyond the arc, missing its first 14 long-range attempts and finishing 4-of-26 on the afternoon.
The Celtics had no such problem on the offensive end, with their starting trio of Marcus Morris, Al Horford and Jaylen Brown combining to go 24-of-38 from the floor, each topping the 20-point plateau – something no Cavalier was able to accomplish in the Game 1 loss.
”We didn’t play well, we understand that,” lamented Coach Lue. “We know we have to be better. I thought early on they really attacked us in the paint. Having 60 paint points is way too many. But they played a good game.”
Kevin Love led the Cavaliers with 17 points but was just 5-of-14 from the floor, including 1-of-4 from long-distance, to go with eight boards and three assists. Love struggled early against Horford on the defensive end, with Boston’s big man going 4-for-4 for 11 points in the first quarter.
“They’re a good team and they played extremely well in these Playoffs – a lot of guys have stepped up for them,” said Love. “We’re not pressing the panic button, we’re going to go back to the drawing board, find where we can get better on the defensive end and let the offensive end take care of itself.”
LeBron James, who came into the contest as the top scorer in the 2018 Playoffs, never found his rhythm in his 35th career postseason matchup against Boston – finishing with 15 points on 5-for-16 shooting, leading both teams with nine assists but also piling up seven of Cleveland’s 10 turnovers.
The Cavaliers’ other three starters were ineffective on Sunday afternoon – with JR Smith, Kyle Korver and George Hill combing for just 14 points in the loss – going a combined 6-for-19 from the floor, 2-of-10 from beyond the arc.
Two other Cavaliers – Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson – notched double-figures, scoring 10 and 11 points, respectively.
Tristan Thompson finished with eight points on 4-for-6 shooting, leading both squads with 11 boards. Thompson brought some much-needed energy to the Cavaliers in that anemic first half, but Boston was already up two touchdowns by the time he checked into the contest.
As a team, the Cavaliers shot just 36 percent from the floor, including 15 percent from three-point range. Boston shot it at a 51 percent clip – drilling 11 triples in the win. Boston outrebounded the Wine & Gold, 48-40, and handed out 27 assists to 18 for Cleveland. The Celtics also dominated down low, scoring 60 points in the paint to 38 for Cleveland.
Turning Point — After the first period, there were exactly zero ties and zero lead-changes. In other words, Sunday’s turning point came early – and it wasn’t good.
The Cavs had their largest lead of the game – three points – when LeBron split a pair of free throws with 9:18 to play in opening quarter. Marcus Morris tied the game with an and-1 on Boston’s next possession – igniting a 14-0 run that put Cleveland behind the 8-ball seven minutes into the ballgame.
The Celtics would extend that lead to as many as 21 in the first period and 28 just before intermission.
The Cavaliers would cut Boston’s lead to 14 points when Jeff Green splashed home a short jumper to end the third quarter. But the Celtics started the final period on a 7-0 run to essentially seal the deal in Game 1.
By the Numbers – 20-25 … Cavaliers’ all-time record in Game 1 of a Playoff series after dropping the opener on Sunday afternoon. Cleveland’s record in the other contests are: Game 2 (25-19), Game 3 (24-19), Game 4 (27-13), Game 5 (13-11), Game 6 (8-9) and Game 7 (4-2).
Quotable – LeBron James, on his level of concern after dropping Game 1 …
”I have zero level of concern at this stage. I didn’t go to college, so it’s not March Madness. You know, you get better throughout the series; you see ways you can get better throughout the series. But I’ve been down 0-1, I’ve been down 0-2. I’ve been down before in the postseason. But for me, there’s never no level of concern no matter how bad I played tonight with seven turnovers, how inefficient I was shooting the ball. I’m just as confident going into a series whether it’s a 0-0 series or I’m down 0-1.”
Up Next — After dropping Game 1 at TD Garden, the Wine & Gold remain in Beantown for Game 2 set for Tuesday night before the series shifts back to Cleveland for the next two contests. After a three-day break, the Eastern Conference Finals resume on Saturday for Game 3 at The Q, with Game 4 slated for the following Monday (5/21). The series returns to Boston next Wednesday (5/23) for Game 5, back to Cleveland the following Friday (5/25) for Game 6 and, if the series goes the distance, back in Boston for Game 7 next Sunday (5/27) – all game times, 8:30 p.m.