The game wasn’t close at all.
Five seconds in and Jaylen Brown scored an uncontested layup despite being initially double teamed.
By the time the first quarter was over, the Celtics were up by twenty-two, having scored a whopping 38 points.
Let’s be clear: The Boston Celtics had their way with the Cavaliers. It was over before the game even began. But despite them being bullied and tortured in a game they lost by 25, the Cavaliers shouldn’t be worried at all.
The Cavaliers have a simple and effective gameplan. Lebron James pretty much just drives to the lane whenever he wants and dunks on whoever is bold enough to get in his way. If the lane gets clogged, he just skip passes to one of his open teammates who routinely splash threes over the outstretched arm of some poor defender who was a split second too late on his closeout. This is usually how things go. Except things were different this game.
Instead of draining three after three, the Cavaliers built a mansion brick by brick. The erratic Cavaliers were astoundingly 0-12 from three in the first quarter. One would think that maybe after going 0-6 that changes would be made. Perhaps players should look for easier shots in the lane or maybe step in for mid-range jumpers. But no, the Cavaliers were consistent with their threes. Maybe even delusional. Things didn’t get better and they ended up finishing 4-26 from three.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have shot a somewhat respectable 37% from three throughout the regular season. In the playoffs, they’ve averaged 34%. Last night, they shot 15% from three. Bad shooting nights happen, we get it. But at what point do you realize that shots just aren’t falling and maybe it’s time to try something else? I mean, couldn’t you just give the ball to one of the most intimidating slashers of all time and hope to get baskets inside?
Enter Lebron James.
Averaging 34 points per game in the playoffs, one would think that Lebron James would step in and dominate in an attempt to lead his team to victory. But instead of taking the game into his own hands, he passively put their fate in the hands of his teammates. Is this a bad thing?
Rather than taking over the game, James looked to get his teammates involved and did so the tune of 9 assists. Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood took 11 and 12 shots respectively, making only 4 and 5. JR Smith only converted on 2 of his 9 shots while Kevin Love made 5 of 14. So although James was getting his guys the ball, they weren’t hitting shots. Which is fine, this is only game 1. Their shots will start falling.
But what if they don’t? Well, that’s fine too.
Lebron James will, at some point, dominate the game. Although he had a sub-par shooting night, only making 5 of his 16 shots, he was not aggressive. One could say he was even lackadaisical in his offense. In the 7 game series against the overachieving Pacers, he averaged 21 shots per game. Then, James averaged 26 shots during Cleveland’s sweep of the Raptors. This shows that when James shoots more, his team is more dominant. But we know Lebron can dominate whenever he wants. He averages 29 points in career playoff games and can score over 40 on any given night.
But in order to contend for the championship, the king needs help from his supporting cast.
With time, the shots will start falling. Sure, the Boston Celtics not only locked down the Cavaliers on defense, they also got what they wanted on offense. Boston attacked Kevin Love relentlessly and Cleveland had no answer for the young and feisty Celtics. But in basketball, defense comes with effort. The Cavaliers will play with more urgency as the series progresses, and as shots start going in they will have more time to set up on defense instead of having to defend the fast break. Surely, they will devise a more efficient defensive scheme to help out the delicate Kevin Love.
So disregard the 25 point mollywhopping. Forget the abysmal 36% shooting from the field. Don’t worry about the intensity and confidence of the young and athletic Boston Celtics, it’s all hype. It will be another year or two before Boston will be at full strength with considerable playoff experience to boot.
But for now, they are facing King Lebron James, arguably the greatest player to ever grace the hardwood. The Cavaliers will be fine, Lebron has zero concern (2:45), and so should you.
Cavs in 6.