The Celtics didn't do anything at all Wednesday night to show they can roll with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The only rolling was the steamroll put on by LeBron James and Company, as Cleveland was dominant pretty much from start to finish. The Cavs' 13-point win does not do justice to the one-sided Game 1 in which they led by 20-plus points for the majority of it.
And they can blame the very start of things as the reason why.
The Celtics have fallen into a trap of going down early in games, and clawing their way back.
That may work against a less talented and less experienced Wizards team, but as we saw in Game 1, it ain't going to happen against the Cavs.
The Celtics worked their butts off all regular season to finish with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. And it paid dividends last round. But one way to lose that home court advantage is to come out the way the Celtics did in the first quarter - or vice versa, come out the way the Cavs did. Boston shot 8-for-20 for 19 points, while James himself scored 15 points in the first quarter, a product of a "zapped" Celtics defense, according to Stevens.
If Boston wants a prayer in this series, they've got to set the tone early.
"With a team like that, the defending champions, you can't let them hit first," Isaiah Thomas said. "We'll make sure it's different in Game 2."
Will we have a lineup change?
Amir Johnson played a big part in the Celtics' regular season success, but whether it's matchups or an injury that we don't know about, he's had a rough postseason. Johnson played just five minutes in the first quarter of Game 1 and was never seen again. It may be time to make another switch to the starting lineup, and Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown seem like prime candidates. Yes, Smart fouled out with nine minutes remaining in the game, but he probably brought more energy than anybody else on the court. The rookie Brown played beyond his years in his first Eastern Conference Finals, and though James still had his way out there, Brown made it difficult at times. Throw the athletic Brown out there and tell him his one and only job is to slow James and let’s see what happens. Brad Stevens did hint after Game 1 that Brown could see more time. The C's would be small, but they've had success going small before. And really, at this point it's worth a shot…
Isaiah and Al
We can talk about the role players stepping up until we're blue in the face. Avery Bradley kept Kyrie Irving in check and scored 21 of his own. Crowder, though clearly unable to stay with James, scored 21 as well. Smart, Brown, etc. But two of Boston's big stars picked an awful game to both go cold at the same time. Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford combined to shoot 11-for-30 for 28 points. That's not going to cut it on most nights, never mind the Eastern Conference Finals against the defending champions. “I just missed shots, didn’t get a rhythm,” Thomas said. “But next game I’ll definitely be more aggressive to make plays, get in the paint, and make stuff happen.”
It wasn’t that long ago the Summer of Love hit Boston, when Kevin Love randomly visited the city and all of a sudden he was going to be the Celtics’ next big star. Well, we know how that ended up. Love stayed with the Cavs, won a championship last season, and appears to still be haunting the C’s this year. After a 32-point performance in which he went 6-for-9 from three, Boston must not lose sight of him or get caught doubling James or Kyrie Irving. They can afford one of those three to go for 30-plus points, but two? Say goodnight.