The first Playoff game of the Brad Stevens era in Cleveland on Sunday afternoon was filled with ups and downs.
For a while in the first half the Celtics looked like they had what it took to pull of an epic Game One upset. Then all of a sudden Kyrie Irving took over the game and the Cavs did not look back, running away with a 13-point victory against the playoff newbies.
The number one thing I took away from the game was the Celtics have what it takes to play with the Cavs. If they can do a few things differently and play a complete 48-minute game there is no reason they can’t steal Game Two tonight and come back to Boston all tied up.
Here are 4 Keys to the game tonight that will determine if the Celtics return to Boston tied, or in the dreaded 0-2 hole.
1. Avery Bradley needs to remember how to play basketball
Danny Ainge inked Bradley to a highly controversial and lucrative contract extension before the beginning of the season. Bradley has been a steady, consistent presence on this team all year, but Game 1 was absolutely atrocious. He looked nervous, out of sync and was borderline embarrassing on the offensive end. Bradley went 3-10 from the field including a god awful 1-6 shooting performance from behind the arc. The back to back air balls in the 4th quarter was the nail in the coffin for a Celtics comeback. All year Bradley has been a leader on the court with consistency and he will need to step his game up big time from his game one performance if the Celtics have any chance of stealing Game 2 in Cleveland.
2. Ride the hot hand
I think it’s safe to say that in Game 1 there was a slight mismanagement of minutes which was very unlike Brad Stevens over the homestretch of the regular season. Evan Turner and Avery Bradley were getting mashed by the Cleveland defensive scheme but they both notched over 30 mins each. It would have been nice to see more Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, and Kelly Olynyk down the stretch. I mean it’s hard to knock the offensive performance when they shot as a team 47% and scored 100 points but there were instances in the game where Cleveland gained so much momentum and the Celtics had no answer in a run of their own. This was the case in part because of the personnel on the floor at those times.
3. Improve the rebounding
Rebounding, or lack thereof by the Celtics, was the most glaring hole in Boston’s game on Sunday. When the starting center and power forward for your team have 3 rebounds COMBINED, you know you are getting killed on the boards. When you look at the total number, the Celtics were only out rebounded by 12, which isn’t good but when you look closer the Cavs had 15 offensive rebounds. To put that in perspective there were 42 available rebounds after the Cavs shot the ball, 35% of the time Cleveland was able to grab their own miss and result in 18 second chance points. The rebounding dominance by Cleveland is also exactly why the Celtics lost by 13 points even though they shot a better percentage from the field!!!! (Boston shot 46.8 % to Cleveland’s 45.1%) That has got to make Brad Stevens blood boil.
4. Contain the superstars
Kyrie Irving was the star offensively in Game 1 scoring 30 points in 40 mins on the floor. Most of his damage came from behind the arc, as he hit 5 of 9 three pointers in the game. It’s safe to say the Celtics back court of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas need to do a better job containing Irving, and closing out on his 3-ball attempts. The scariest part about this Game 1 loss by the Celtics was Lebron was… quiet. He scored only 20 points, and attempted only 18 shots. It wasn’t the usual playoff Lebron the Celtics were preparing for. He admittedly settled into the facilitator role but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he put on his superman cape sooner than later in this series. Jae Crowder needs to be all over Lebron tonight. James hit 3 of his 8 makes against Evan Turner and really ate him up all night, when Crowder D’ed him up he held him to only 1-4 shooting and did not let him back him to the basket . Got to see more Crowder and less Turner on Lebron tonight for the Celtics to have a chance.
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