While many questioned how Boston was going to slow down LeBron James, playoff rookie Kyrie Irving displayed his scoring prowess by dropping a game-high 30 points in a 113-100 Game 1 victory over the Celtics on Sunday.
James added 20 points and Kevin Love chipped in a double-double; 19 points, 12 rebounds. Cleveland's three all-stars combined for 69 points and opened up a 20-point lead in the third quarter, their biggest one of the day. The Celtics impressively trimmed Cleveland's lead down to 6 towards the end of the quarter before the Cavs went on a 9-0 run and took a 15-point lead into the fourth.
Isaiah Thomas compiled a double-double in his playoff debut, he scored 22 points and dished out 10 assists. Evan Turner had 12 points and pulled down a team-high 7 rebounds. And Kelly Olynyk scored 12.
The C's took a 4-point lead into the second quarter and doubled it to 8; their biggest lead of the game. Marcus Smart started the quarter by scoring six of the Celtics' first seven points. The Cavs responded to the Celtics' 8-point lead by knocking down 3-three pointers in three consecutive possessions (J.R. Smith, Love, Irving). When the Cavs grabbed a second quarter lead and the Celtics fell behind, things stayed that way for the rest of the game. Irving scored 20 points in the first half for the Cavs, his buzzer beating three-pointer gave his team an 8-point halftime lead.
"Offensively, we were good in the first half, and defensively we were good in the second, but we never really put it together," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the game. "And I'm not overstating this: credit them, they're really good."Although the C's were able to cut their 20-point deficit down to 6 in the third their defense let up at the end of the quarter, allowing a 9-0 Cavs run in the final 1:40. Celtics' good defense in the second half is what kept them in the game but when it would let up for a few minutes - that's when the Cavs made their strides.
The Celtics kept up with the Cavs in the first half. If Irving and James combine for 33 points, more than half of Cleveland's points, and the Celtics are only down by 8, that's not a scary halftime deficit (especially when it should have been a 5-point CLE lead but Thomas' jumper left five seconds on the clock for Irving to hit that three-pointer).
But the Celtics missed a lot of shots at the start of the third quarter. And while the defense led them back into the game, the offense wasn't there when the Cavs took their 9-point advantage into the fourth.
"We're still confident," Thomas said. "Guys are ready for Game 2, knowing that good or bad you've got to have a short memory. There are possibly seven games in this series and it could go either way."Although the Celtics outscored the Cavs 42-40 in the paint, the Cavs had their way with the Celtics on the boards. The Cavs were plus-12 over the Celtics, Cleveland pulled down 46 rebounds. And the Celtics gave up 15, yes that's right - 15 offensive rebounds. A great way for the Celtics to limit scoring from an offensive powerhouse team such as the Cavs is by not giving them 15 second chances.
"We'll learn from it, and improve from it," Stevens said. "Very simple. Don't want to overdo it. This is a long series, and I think we have to learn from what we didn't do well and try to continue what we did do well - and do it more often."The Celtics will try to even the best-of-7 series in Game 2 on Tuesday night at Cleveland.
The Celtics offense needs Avery Bradley in this series. Bradley went 3-for-10, 1-for-6 from behind the arc for 10 points. He has to find a way to get it going in this series, he'll most likely look better tomorrow night in Game 2... Kevin Love's outside shot is bringing Tyler Zeller out of the post in order to defend, when that happens guys have to crash the boards to eliminate Cleveland's second chance opportunities. Jared Sullinger grabbed 4 boards in 13 minutes, he's going to have to play more solely for rebounding purposes or Stevens has to come up with a way to get his guys in the paint and to box out. Either way rebounding is a very important stat in this series, something to keep a close eye on.