Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Celtics 120, Cavaliers 95: Jaylen Brown's 32 points leads C's past Cleveland in Game 1 [BOS leads series, 1-0]

The Celtics sent a message in Game 1 by dominating the Cleveland Cavaliers 120-95 Tuesday night at TD Garden to take a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The home team was led by Jaylen Brown's 32-point performance, despite Jayson Tatum struggling to find consistency with his shot, but Boston's deep roster overcame it with a balanced scoring attack and help from their second unit. 

Brown went 12-of-18 from the field, including 4-of-6 from deep, while Derrick White wasn't far behind him with 25 points. Jrue Holiday had his best scoring night in the playoffs with 14 points, and Tatum added 18 points (7-of-19), 11 rebounds.

Donovan Mitchell led the Cavaliers in scoring with 33 points on 12-of-25 shooting, while Evan Mobley tallied 17 points and 13 rebounds. Darius Garland also netted 14 points in the effort for the Cavs.

Aggressive from the opening tip, Brown's growth as a scorer and decision maker this postseason is evident, which he showed Tuesday night, taking control of the offense and taking what the defense gave him.
"He takes a ton of pride in just growing as a player every year, every game, every day. He spends a lot of time on it. He's not afraid to go after something that he knows he can improve on, which I think is huge for his growth mindset," said head coach Joe Mazzulla told reporters. "His ability to pick and choose his spots, when to play in transition. He had a couple times where he scored in transition and two plays later he slowed it down mid pick and roll and made the right play."
It didn't take long for Boston's offense to get in rhythm behind Brown's nine points within the first three minutes, the Celtics got out to a quick 12-2 run. Despite the strong start, the Cavs wouldn't let Boston pull away. Cleveland quickly responded with an 8-0 spurt to keep up with the C's offense.

Brown continued to pour it on with 15 points in the opening frame, with Tatum's nine points providing a boost towards the end of the first quarter. Regardless of their start offensively, Boston's struggles to defend Mitchell (14 points) kept the Cavs in striking distance heading into the second quarter -- trailing only 40-34.

Hoping to put their defensive woes behind them, Boston came out even stronger in the second period, keeping the Cleveland scoreless up until the 7:22 mark, when Max Strus knocked down his first 3-pointer of the night. Despite the adjustments defensively, Boston's offense failed to take advantage, as they scored only 19 total points in the second -- holding the Cavs to just 15.

Assuming a bigger role in Kristaps Porzingis' absence, Luke Kornet brought some energy in the first half, grabbing eight boards and two blocks–tying Tatum for the team lead in both of those categories. 

Brown (20 points) continued to be the team's best scoring option in the second quarter, but Boston failed to pull away, with a 59-49 lead at the break. Held to only 27% shooting from long distance, the Celtics offense–heavily reliant on the three, failed to convert on some open treys, which played a large role in keeping the Cavs competitive in the first half.

Boston reverted back to their biggest strength to start the third quarter, as Holiday kicked it off with a trey on the opening possession, and followed it up with another 3-pointer shortly after. 

With Tatum struggling to find his shot, White took the reins offensively, scoring 14 of his 25 points in the third, including knocking down four 3-pointers. Although the Celtics' offense was buzzing behind a 20-9 run, the Cavs still hung around with the help of Mitchell, who carried them with 16 points in the third. Even with Mitchell's production, Payton Pritchard (16 points) answered with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to extend Boston's lead to 15 after three. 

Boston never took their foot off the gas and with the help of Brown's eight fourth quarter points, were too much for Cleveland to overcome. Although Mitchell gave Boston's defense fits throughout, they were able to slow down the rest of his supporting cast which played a huge factor in the team's convincing victory. 

Although the Celtics' dominant performance Tuesday night was encouraging, the team isn't satisfied and knows there's still room for improvement.
"We got to be a lot better. We know they're going to be a lot better for Game 2," said White postgame interview following his 7-of-12 from 3-point range performance. "A lot of mistakes we made, so we got to be better."
The Celtics hope to take a commanding 2-0 lead Thursday night at home, as Game 2 will be available to watch on ESPN at 7:00 pm ET.

Game Notes:

Boston dominated the glass with a 55-38 rebounding advantage. The Celtics also knocked down 18 threes, while holding the Cavaliers to only 11 threes–including 5-of-30 shooting from deep in the final three quarters. The C's also finished with seven blocks compared to Cleveland's three blocks. 

Ian Carrano

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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