BOSTON (CBS) — After a 24-hour span in which nothing could go wrong for the Boston Celtics, nothing went right for them in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The euphoria from Monday’s Game 7 victory over the Wizards and winning the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday are long gone, with reality setting in for the Celtics. The Cleveland Cavaliers showed no rust after a 10-day layoff and dominated the Eastern Conference’s top seed on Wednesday night in Boston, often toying with the Celtics on their way to a 117-104 Game 1 win.
It was a slow start that doomed the Celtics, as the Cavaliers led from start to finish and were up by 28 at one point.
“Our starting group needs to come out with more of a sense of urgency,” said forward Al Horford. “For whatever reason we’re okay at times but we’re not as good as what we need to be. We need to understand that we can’t react once we’re down ten or fifteen. We can’t afford it we won’t make it, so we have to make sure that we’re better from the beginning.”
“They were the better team tonight. They hit us first. They were more physical,” said Isaiah Thomas. “And that was the difference. With a team like that, the defending champions, you can’t let them hit first. We’ll make sure it’s different on Game 2.”
Cleveland has now won all nine of their games this postseason.
LeBron James took over in every way possible, no matter who was guarding him. Brad Stevens tried a number of different defenders on James, from Jae Crowder to Marcus Smart to Avery Bradley to Al Horford, and none of them could even slow him down just for a few plays. James was salivating when he saw Kelly Olynyk try his hand at defending him in the first half.
James finished with another ridiculous stat line: 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. He shot 14-for-24 on the evening, and has now scored 30 or more points in seven straight playoff games.
Kevin Love added 32 points and 12 rebounds for Cleveland while Tristan Thompson had 20 points and nine rebounds (including six offensive), taking advantage of some poor rebounding by Boston.
Rookie Jaylen Brown was one of the lone bright spots for the Celtics, playing 20 strong minutes off the bench and finishing with 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting and nine rebounds. He even played some solid D on James for spurts, giving Celtics fans a bright view of the future.
The present is the issue though, as Boston now finds themselves in a 1-0 hole to the defending champs. Thomas finished Game 1 with 17 points off 7-for-19 shooting from the floor and just 2-for-7 from downtown. Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder both finished with 21 points for Boston.
Cleveland took a 61-39 lead into halftime after going 22-for-39 from the floor, scoring 36 of their points in the paint (they finished with 52). The Celtics on the other hand shot just 16-for-45 (including 2-for-16 from downtown) in the first half, and were out-rebounded 28 to 14.
Things got a bit feisty late in the third quarter as Marcus Smart tied to box out Thompson and the two had words for each other after the play. They both received a technical foul, with Thomas chiming in shortly after. That sparked the Celtics a bit, as they closed the quarter on a 15-4 run to make it a 92-75 game heading into the fourth quarter.
The Celtics made it somewhat respectable in the fourth quarter but the outcome was never in doubt, and the Cavs now own a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 is set for Friday night in Boston.