The Cavaliers defeated the Celtics 117-104 to take game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavs led by as many as 28 points in the wire to wire victory. LeBron James was average by his playoff standards with 38 points 9 rebounds and 7 assists. While LeBron has gotten a lot of credit this postseason and rightfully so, his running mate came to play.
Coming into this series, Tyronn Lue said that he wanted to try to get Kevin Love more involved offensively. Lue thought against the Raptors he might have given Serge Ibaka too much credit defensively. Against the Boston Celtics, the matchups would be more favorable for Love. Often the forgotten star, Kevin Love showed why he is an all-star player and a member of the “Big 3.” With a career-high of 32 points and 12 rebounds, Love established himself on the perimeter. The Cavs were 11-31 from the 3-point line, Love made 6 of 9 attempts.
Going back to the 2015 NBA playoffs, Kevin Love dislocated his shoulder against Kelly Olynyk in TD Garden. Love post-game referred to it as “bush league… it’s just too bad that he would go to those lengths to take someone out of the game. I had no doubt in my mind that he did that on purpose.” That was Love’s first experience in the postseason and many believe that this cost the Cavaliers a championship.
Takeaways heading into game 2
The Cavaliers dominated the Boston Celtics in game 1 but did not play their best basketball. While you don’t want to call it rust, the Cavs seemed a tad winded early on. On the glass, Tristan Thompson proved that he would be a force in the first quarter. After the first period, the Cavs out rebounded the Celtics 16-4. The Cavs did not make a great percent of their attempts from deep shooting only 35 percent. Kyrie Irving continued his struggles from the field, shooting 4-11 for 11 points. Arguably Boston’s best defender, Avery Bradley will continue to make things difficult for Irving.
The benefit of having a team as talented as the Cavs is that you can utilize your advantages. While Irving has a difficult defender, Tristan, LeBron and Love have front court matchups that they can exploit. There were many times in the pick and roll that bigs were switched on LeBron. Whether it was Al Horford or Kelly Olynyk, LeBron was determined to get to the basket. Going into game 2, expect the Cavs to continue to feature their front court. If the Cavs can hold Isaiah Thomas under 20 points again, we should see much of the same Friday night.