In the first round of the NBA playoffs the Celtics fought it out against a tough Milwaukee Bucks team to win the opportunity to go up against LeBron and the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals. Missing star players Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, the Celtics pulled off the surprise victory over the Bucks. With a young and relatively inexperienced team, few expected the Celtics to make it past the first round.
Game One In Boston
The Celtics may have been the underdog but they sure didn’t play like it. Coming out of the gate you could tell they had a certain intensity about them. They came to win. It didn’t matter to young guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown that they were coming up against superstar veteran LeBron James.
While the first few minutes of the game were close, it did not stay that way. Mid-way through the first quarter Celtics went on a 30-6 scoring run, racking up 34 in the first eleven minutes of play. The Cavs? LeBron’s guys were held to a measly 13.
This amazing first quarter set the tone for the game. The Celtics were playing great team basketball with different guys sharing the scoring. In the first quarter Brown scored 13 while Horford had 11.
And the defense? Rather than getting intimidated by LeBron James, the young team from Boston threw different looks at the superstar and threw him off his game.
Coming out of the first series in which James gave typical stellar performances, no one expected his lackluster effort in game one. In the Toronto Series, James averaged 34.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 9 assists per game.
In game one, the Celtics held LeBron to just 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 assists. Fine for an average player. But the Cavs needed more out of their top scorer in order to win.
The Celtics also caused 9 turnovers in the game, 7 of which came from LeBron himself. It’s safe to say that the defensive strategy dreamed up by Celtics head coach Brad Stevens worked on LeBron.
After and impressive first quarter the Celtics did not let up. The Cavs were not able to get within striking distance the entire game. Boston ended up winning the game by a whopping 108 to 83.
The Cavs fared better in game two but it was still not enough. LeBron was more himself, scoring 42 points, with 12 assists, and 10 rebounds.
James may have been back on his game but the team effort still wasn’t there for the Cavs. In order to energize the offensive, Cleveland elected to start Thompson over Corver. But unfortunately for them, Thompson and fellow starters, Smith, and Hill, only managed to put up 11 points combined. The three together shot a poor 5 for 17 from the field.
Kevin Love did come through though. He scored 22 points with 15 rebounds but his effort added to LeBron’s was not enough to make up for the rest of the starting five.
The Celtics meanwhile were able to spread the ball around. Six Boston players reached double figures and the team turned the ball over only six times. Again Cleveland had difficulty controlling the basketball. They combined for fifteen turnovers.
After watching the first two games of the series it is clear that team play is winning out over the one-on-one style of play favored by James. That being said, games three and four will be played in Cleveland.
LeBron improved greatly from game one to game two and now he is returning home. With the Cleveland fans on his side it could be a different ball game. But the rest of the Cavs will have to show up as well. It was good to see Love make a difference in game two but the Cavs are going to need more production from their guards in order to beat this tenacious Boston team.
It’s been an exciting two games for the young Celtics team. But LeBron James has brought his team to the finals seven years in a row. He will not be giving up easy. In all likelihood the Cavs are going to take at least one game at home if not swinging the series to and even two to two.
But the Celtics won’t be lying down so the Cavs better step it up. Tensions heated up in the last game after a flagrant foul by J.R. Smith. Expect to see the intensity ramped up even more when the series moves to LeBron’s hometown.