LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were throttled at the TD Garden in Boston on Sunday afternoon, as the Celtics coasted to a 108-83 victory to take a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Celtics would lead 36-18 at the end of the first quarter and 61-35 at the half. Morris probably won't light it up like that again but the Cavs don't have any defensive stoppers outside of James and no rim protection, so the Celtics should feast each night. He was 5 of 16 from the floor and had seven of his team's 10 turnovers in his 15-point game.
And it starts with the play of Marcus Morris, traded over to the Celtics in what is shaping up to be a historic 2017 offseason, who led the charge in clamping down on James, while getting help from teammates like Al Horford and Marcus Smart.
James should be much better in Game 2. Morris made the headlines prior to Game 1 by declaring that he is the best player in the league (behind San Antonio Spur Kawhi Leonard) to guard LeBron. That being said, Morris clearly has an ability to provide some resistance on defense, while having an impact on offense, and there is no doubt the Celtics need every bit of that in this series.
And Lue is going to play chess with Brad Stevens in an effort to increase the odds of a James Show in Game 2, too. These were accompanied by just nine turnovers, well down on the 12.3 they've averaged throughout the playoffs so far. Attempting to beat the best player in the playoffs/NBA in LeBron James was expected to be much more hard of a task. The Cavs made only 15 percent of their treys - 4 for 26. Realistically, keeping LeBron below 30 points and ten assists would be considered a win, so to keep him to 31.3% shooting and a almost identical assist to turnover ratio while dropping 21 efficient points of his own was an unbelievable effort.
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Dan Feldman of NBC Sports put together a video comparing LeBron's recollection to the actual plays in the game.
The fact that LeBron will bounce back is a realistic expectation.
"He's our rock", Stevens said of Horford, who has also averaged 8.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game in the playoffs. When forced to respond - especially early in a series - James legitimately takes a game over, and it can often be the start of the tipping point in a series. With three guys at or near 20 points, the Celtics will score 110 points, which will be enough to win. Back in November, his twin brother, Markieff, who plays for the Washington Wizards, answered "Hell yeah" when asked if he could have helped stop James from scoring 57 points against the Wizards if he had been healthy. He has scored 994 playoff points against Boston, the most by any player against a single team in postseason history.
Thompson came off the bench for a game-high 11 rebounds, including four offensive and outscored his three starting guards with eight points.
If you needed more affirmation that LeBron James is special, well, here you go.
Things got a little tense when Cleveland cut a 28-point deficit to 14 entering the fourth quarter.