The city of Boston is used to big occasions like this with the TD Garden hosting Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals and the basketball fans of Massachusetts were not disappointed. The game ended 108-83 as the hosts completed a 25-point blowout victory off the back of a solid team effort.
What a game it was for the Celtics, right from the tip-off to the final buzzer. They were fired up and kept their wits about them whenever it seemed like they were allowing the Cavaliers back into the contest. That didn’t happen much during the game though. From the ninth minute of the first quarter Boston hit the front and they continued to build a lead, one they wouldn’t relinquish. Jaylen Brown led the Cs through out the game and particularly in the first quarter as he dropped in 13 points in the first frame. He was more than ably assisted by Al Horford who scored 10 points, as the home team ended the opening quarter up 36-18. The second quarter was no better for the Cavaliers who were being shut down in the opening half. LeBron James scored 5 points in the first quarter and only added one more basket in the second quarter as he was kept quiet, scoring only 7 points in the first 24 minutes of the game. Kevin Love was the visiting team’s top-scorer with 8 points in the game at that stage. The Celtics went to half time leading 61-35. The stifling defense of the home town had the Cavaliers stunned and forced into bad shot attempts.
After the half-time breather you’d have expected a response from the Cavaliers as they needed a big comeback and lift from all of their stars, especially James. The defensive effort from the Celtics was up to the task and had been all game, with Marcus Morris designated the LeBron stopper. After some early foul trouble Morris stuck to his task and despite the Cavs outscoring the Celtics 29-17 in the third quarter, the home team were in control of the game. Morris ended the third frame with 14 points, the same amount of points as LeBron James in their fascinating duel. Brown and Horford were leading the line for Boston and finished the third with 23 points and 20 points respectively. The closest the Cavaliers got was cutting the deficit down to 14 points after it had ballooned to 28 points during the third quarter.
Going into the fourth quarter Cleveland had the momentum. Where other teams have blinked in the glare of the oncoming Cavaliers juggernaut the Celtics put their foot on the gas and pushed for the victory. They re-established that big lead and with just over seven minutes left to play in the game James was withdrawn as the hosts lead 96-68. With LeBron on the bench Tyronn Lue had conceded defeat and that was all she wrote for Cleveland.
The box score told the whole story for Boston who leaned on each other to use a massive team performance to grab the statement win. Jaylen Brown top-scored with 23 points in the contest; Morris claimed a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Rookie Jayson Tatum ended with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block. Horford held it down with 20 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists and Terry Rozier’s stat line read 8 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds. African players Semi Ojeleye (Nigerian-American) and Abdel Nader (Egyptian-American) got on the court and contributed to the victory. Ojeleye played 15 minutes and scored 3 points and claimed a rebound, while Nader played four and a half minutes and scored 2 points. Both players playing their roles perfectly as they weighed in defensively.
The Cavaliers had four players score in double digits with Love their top scorer as he scored 17 points, and he also pulled down 8 rebounds. James ended the game with 15 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds but his 7 turnovers were a game high. James was harried into making some unwise passes by the oppressive defensive and his turnovers proved costly as Cleveland only turned the ball over 9 times in the game, James the biggest culprit in giving the ball away. Rodney Hood scored 11 points and Jordan Clarkson scored 10.
Game 2 is back in Boston and the Cavaliers will hope to put in a better showing and steal a win at TD Garden before the series goes to Ohio for Game 3. Brad Stevens will ensure his team knows that they haven’t achieved their goal just yet and cool heads will need to prevail. This Conference Finals series are set up to play out in exciting fashion.