BOSTON — It’s pretty clear which team is the best in the Eastern Conference, even if the records say otherwise.
The Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards all are within four games of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the best record in the East, but the reality is they all feel much further away than that. And Wednesday night’s huge matchup between the C’s and Cavs was a perfect example why.
The Celtics and Cavaliers were tied with the best record in the East heading into Wednesday, and it wasn’t so long ago when Cleveland lost three straight games, welcoming doubters to question whether or not something seriously was wrong with LeBron James and Co.
But those doubters are going to need new takes after Cleveland dismantled their biggest threat in the East in a dominant 114-91 win at TD Garden.
“You saw it in the third quarter last night, we played really good basketball and I think (Wednesday night) we put together a good string of basketball for just about 48 minutes, and it felt like us,” Kevin Love, who didn’t play in the prior meeting between the two teams, said. “It had been a while since we have put together a game like that and we needed that. It’s a great environment, the fans are great here, they get on top of you and they are well coached and have great personnel. (Wednesday night) was big for us.”
It appeared as though that might not be the case after the first quarter, as the Cavaliers couldn’t turn their already sizable rebounding advantage into many made baskets. But that all changed in the second quarter when James took the game over. He scored 15 points in the second frame, and he finished with 36 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
James made headlines Tuesday when he downplayed the importance of the impending tilt with the Celtics, but it sure seemed like it was more than just another regular-season game for all involved. And that makes the way the C’s played that much more troubling for them.
They were exposed on the boards, as the Cavs outrebounded them 51-38, and they allowed 71 combined points combined over the second and third quarters. Sixteen of those rebounds came from Love, whose return to the lineup was felt in this one.
There’s little doubt the Cavaliers appear to have found their way at the perfect time, and they put together one of their best performances in a while in a huge spot.
And that’s bad news for the Celtics and the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images