Before Wednesday night, LeBron James was 1-10 in Game 1s on the road in his NBA playoff career. This did not seem to matter though, as he piloted his Cleveland Cavaliers to a statement 117-104 win over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden in the opening game of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics were simply unable to contain the 4-time NBA MVP, as he scored 38 points, surely giving Boston fans flashbacks to his phenomenal play in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals showdown against Boston.
The Cavaliers were in complete control of the opening quarter. They came out strong and ready to play after 10 days of rest following the conclusion of their 2nd round bout with the Toronto Raptors, where they came away with a sweep. Cleveland led the Celtics the whole first quarter, coming out to a 7-2 lead to pen the game. LeBron James was absolutely dominant in the first quarter, scoring 15 of Cleveland’s 30, on 7-8 shooting from the field. Boston on the other hand, came out flat, only totaling 19 points in the period. Avery Bradley had a strong start, shooting 4-8, totaling 9 first quarter points.
Going into the second quarter down 30-19, the Celtics continued to play poorly, unable to take advantage of the Cavalier lineup without LeBron. They continued to struggle to put points on the board. Iman Shumpert hit the first three pointer off the game for Cleveland at the 8:03 mark, after the team started off 0-6. This big shot ignited a Cavaliers run, as they scored 12 consecutive points. Cleveland continued to control the game in the second quarter, driving the deficit up to 25 at one point, as they led Boston 61-39 going into the half.
Both teams shot poorly from beyond the arc in the first half, with the Celtics going 2-16 and the Cavs going 2-9. LeBron James led all scorers with 23 points going into the intermission, while Kevin Love also had a good first half, racking up 13 points on 4-8 shooting. Isaiah Thomas was still unable to find his groove, going 3-11 from the field, totaling 8 points, while turning the ball over 3 times. Al Horford stuggled from the field as well, shooting 1-8 from the field, good for 4 points. Boston’s rebounding woes continued, as they were getting nearly doubled on the boards.
Baron Davis described the Celtics’ first half play below:
In the third quarter, the teams exchanged baskets in the opening minutes. Jae Crowder hit a couple nice shots and Isaiah Thomas started to somewhat come alive, as he scored 10 in the quarter, going 3-6. Kevin Love heated up early and maintained his high percentage shooting throughout the period, as he went 5-8 in the quarter, scoring 18 points. Bradley continued to play well as he got up to 19 points. The Celtics ended the quarter on an 11-3 run in a three minute span, led by Al Horford, who scored 7 points during that stretch. The run was capped off by an emphatic Marcus Smart putback, cutting the deficit to 17, and also sparking some life in TD Garden.
The Celtics were only able to get the lead down to 12 at its lowest, as the two teams scored pretty evenly throughout the quarter. Boston had the slight edge in the final quarter of play as they outscored Cleveland 29-25.
The Cleveland Cavaliers “Big Three” had a very good showing, as LeBron ended up with 38 points, 7 assists, and 9 rebounds. This was his 7th straight playoff game with 30+ points, making him the first to do so since Shaquille O’Neal in the 2002-2003 NBA Playoffs. Kevin Love ended the game with a 32/12 double-double, while Kyrie Irving had a decent game, contributing 11 points and 6 assists. Tristan Thompson shot a perfect 7-7, scoring 20 points and grabbing 9 rebounds
The Celtics had a couple bright spots in their play, with Jae Crowder (21 points), Avery Bradley (21 points), Isaiah Thomas (17 points and 10 assists), and Jaylen Brown (10 points) coming away with pretty good games. One thing for sure is that the Celtics certainly need more production aside from those four guys if they want a chance to contend with Cleveland in this series.
The series will continue in Game 2, set to tip-off at 8:30 EST this Friday.