This series is not even close to being over, but make no mistake – today is a glorious Monday if you’re a Boston sports fan.
The Celtics’ 2017-18 playoff run was already one of the most improbable and impressive stretches in the rich sports history of this city, but Sunday’s 103-81 beatdown of alleged “King” James and the Cavs in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals cemented this Celtics team as an inspirational institution.
They simply should not be doing this. Particularly against one of the top two or three players to ever lace ’em up.
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In the blowout victory Sunday at the Garden, Jaylen Brown was the breakout star for the C’s as he pumped in a game-high 23 points. Brown had 13 points in the Celts’ monster first quarter that set the tone for the afternoon. In those first 12 minutes Sunday, the Celtics doubled up the Cavs - outscoring them 36-18.
Brown was one of many Celtics players – including Marcus Morris, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Semi Ojeleye – who had a turn on LeBron defensively, and all of them shined.
The 15 points LeBron scored on 5-of-16 shooting was easily his lowest point total of this year’s playoffs. Expect the Celtics to continue to swamp LeBron when he attempts to drive to the bucket in Game 2 as it remains to be seen if Cleveland has the ancillary pieces this year to win a game when LeBron is having a relatively quiet night.
Of note, in the Cavs’ three playoff losses to the Pacers in Round 1 LeBron did not score more than 28 points. Conversely, whenever he’s gone off for 30 or more this postseason, the Cavs have won.
This Cavs team does not have a legit 1A player like they had a year ago in Kyrie Irving and like the Heat had in Dwayne Wade back when LeBron’s talents were being practiced in South Beach.
Kevin Love certainly did not look ready to shoulder that load, despite him scoring a team-high 17 in Game 1. Love went just 1-for-4 from 3-point territory and Brown had a key block on one of his shots in the first half that directly led to points on the other end for the C’s.
So, LeBron is going to have to do this thing on his own, and that finally may be too much to ask from the 33-year-old who has about 83,000 miles on his playoff odometer – particularly against a Celtics team which is playing the best all-around team basketball in the NBA since the 2004 champion Pistons.
For whatever reason, LeBron looked out of sorts on Sunday. He missed a layup down 20 points in the third quarter, and complained to the refs about a foul – of course. No call.
The stripes did call The King for a rare traveling violation in the fourth quarter, though.
No doubt, LeBron will politic his way into getting the ticky-tack calls the rest of the series and this matchup will quickly become nip and tuck. But for a day, Celtics fans own the right to gloat.
After all, the starless C’s are destroying the King.