Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Layoff, Celts can't stop LeBron, Cavs in opener

Celtics Layoff, Celts can't stop LeBron, Cavs in opener
Freda Brock | 19 May, 2017, 22:21

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers continued to do what they've done all postseason, proving that nothing is going to stop them from reaching the NBA Finals for a third straight year.

A day after winning the National Basketball Association draft lottery and earning the right to the No. 1 overall pick, the Celtics were reminded of the gap between them and the defending National Basketball Association champion Cavaliers when Cleveland opened the Eastern Conference finals with a 117-104 victory on Wednesday night. "We can't allow a team of their caliber to build a lead like that in the first quarter", Al Horford said after Wednesday's defeat.

"The 6'8" forward, however, did have some praise for his team: "The energy and the effort and the mindset was where it needed to be".

"They hit us first". Boston's 14-5 run to end the third quarter was nice, but when you're down 28 points that kind of run doesn't matter much.

As great as James was Wednesday night, it was nearly expected, and the same will be the case in Game 2 Friday night. "I knew I wouldn't feel that great after the game, and I don't feel that great right now".

James scored 38 points on 24 shots, adding nine rebounds, seven assists, two steals and just two turnovers.

A lot of that will fall on Isaiah Thomas, who missed eight of his first nine shots. But that isn't going to fly in Game 2, and they need to go out and actually throw that first punch if they want any chance at tying the series. When LeBron decided it was time to score, he did just that, effortlessly gliding past Olynyk for the easy layup. Boston must find a way to slow down James while not getting eaten up by a supporting cast, which other than Kevin Love's big game, didn't produce at its usual high rate. "We felt like we did a good job doing that", Love said. "I just want to win".

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Smart and Thompson were called for a double foul on the play, but got tangled again a few minutes later.

Meanwhile, the Celtics got strong play in the first half from rookie Jaylen Brown who continues to play some of his best basketball against the Cavaliers.

He backed down defenders to set up 15-foot fade away jumpers.

The Celtics were able to play them relatively even the rest of the half, which doesn't do much good when facing a deficit on the north side of 20 points.

A loss Friday would also leave Boston with the daunting proposition of having to win four out of five games to take the series - a almost impossible task against a team that since James returned to Cleveland in 2014-15 has a 33-4 playoff record against Eastern Conference opponents.

Boston also seemed content to make every switch created by Cleveland screens, leading to some awkward matchups for James in the first half.

One of the Celtics' issues all night was not sending help when James got into one-on-one situations. But until the Cavs actually lose a game, it isn't wise to pick against them.

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