Wrap-Up — Any concerns about the Wine and Gold being out of rhythm after a nine-day layoff between rounds were erased early and often on Wednesday night in Beantown – with the razor-sharp Cavaliers dismantling the Celtics, 117-104, going wire-to-wire to take Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Cleveland still hasn’t lost in the 2017 postseason and seem to get stronger with each passing round. On Wednesday night at The TD Garden, the Cavs made it look simple – running out to a double-digit first-quarter lead, upping it to 26 at intermission and barely looking back from there.
In their final head-to-head meeting of the regular season, the Cavaliers thumped the Celtics in similar fashion. But Boston won its last three games, locking up the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
But starting on the road barely phased the Wine and Gold – who replicated that early-April beating in Game 1 on Wednesday night in Beantown.
LeBron James – who’s now won at least one road game in 29 consecutive postseason series – ensured that his squad would avoid a slow start, notching 15 of his game-high 38 points in the first period, drilling seven of his first eight shots from the floor.
”I think it’s the mindset that you have to have when you go on the road for a Game 1 – you can’t start the game off lax or shooting a bunch of jumpshots,” said James. “That’s my mindset. We’ve got guys that can shoot the heck out of a ball, and obviously Kev showed that tonight. But for myself, I have to be in attack mode and just put the pressure on the defense and see what happens.”
James has now scored at least 30 points in seven straight Playoff games and topped that total again with 13 points in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s win.
On the night, the four-time MVP finished 14-of-24 from the field and 9-of-11 from the stripe, adding nine boards, seven assists and a pair of steals.
LeBron was part of a starting frontline that combined for 90 points and 30 boards.
After a slow start, Kevin Love – who’s got some previous postseason history at the TD Garden – began heating up in the second quarter and never cooled down, combining for 29 points in the second and third periods and finishing with a Playoff career-high 32 points and a game-high 12 boards.
The last time the Cavaliers visited Boston, they did so without Tristan Thompson – who had his consecutive games played streak snapped at 447. He took it out on the Celtics on Wednesday night, also tallying a Playoff career-high 20 points – going a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor and adding nine boards, six off the offensive glass.
KLove and LBJ combine for 70 points and TT comes up big with 20 of his own.
”Tristan was big – he’s our energy, he’s our motor,” praised Coach Tyronn Lue. “Defensively he was great. But all the offensive rebounds, he had six offensive rebounds, was huge for us. And then finishing around the basket. His toughness and his will are just big for us. I think his physicality is huge for us, especially against this team.”
The only other Cavalier in double-figures was Kyrie Irving, who struggled from the floor, finishing with 11 points and six assists.
The Wine and Gold managed to keep Isaiah Thomas completely in check. The two-time All-Star was 3-of-11 from the floor in the first half and finished 7-of-19 overall – notching 17 points and a game-high 10 assists.
Cleveland shot 48 percent from the floor and just 36 percent from long-range, but committed just eight turnovers and thoroughly dominated the boards through the first three quarters.
Boston notched 36 points in the third quarter to get within 17 points by the end of the period. But the Cavs kept the Celts under wraps for most of the night – limiting them to just 18 free throws and forcing 14 turnovers that they converted into 17 points.
Turning Point — The game got out of hand for Boston during the first three quarters, with Cleveland extending its lead to as much as 28 points in the third.
But one of the game’s most important moments came at the start of the fourth period, just as Boston had cut the Cavaliers lead to end the third. The Celtics were coming off a 36-point quarter and their infamous crowd began getting engaged in the game.
But Kyle Korver drilled his only triple of the night to start the fourth and put the Cavs back up by 20. Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green hit back-to-back buckets, but LeBron hit four straight free throws to keep Boston at bay.
The Celtics got to within 11 with under two minutes to play, but both teams were well into garbage time by that point.
By the Numbers – 1 … Cavalier players since 1992 not named LeBron James who have scored at least 30 points and grabbed 10 boards in a Playoff game – Kevin Love in Wednesday’s Game 1 against Boston. Brad Daugherty – vs. the New Jersey Nets – was the last Cavalier to do so.
Quotable – Kevin Love, on his performance and comfort level in the 2017 Playoffs …
”As I mentioned to Ty (Lue) last week and throughout these playoffs, it doesn’t matter to me if I’m getting five shots or 25 shots, I just want to win. I know I can impact the game whether it shows up in the stat sheet or not. I think that has allowed me to be comfortable out there on the floor.”
Up Next — After dropping Boston on Wednesday night at the TD Garden, these two will lock horns every other day until someone wins four and move on to the NBA Finals – which tip off on June 1. Game 2 off the Eastern Conference Finals goes down on Friday night in Beantown before the series shifts back to Cleveland for the next two – on Sunday and Tuesday night at The Q. If the series goes on beyond that point, it’s Thursday back in Boston for Game 3, Saturday at The Q for Game 6 and next Monday night in Boston if it goes seven.
Calls of the Game