BOSTON — The Celtics’ depth has been among its biggest strengths all season, but it was Boston’s starting five that led the way in a blowout win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The C’s starters outscored their Cavs counterparts 88-46 as Boston cruised to a 108-103 win Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.
Three Celtics starters poured in 20 or more points, led by Jaylen Brown’s 23. Marcus Morris (21) and Al Horford (20) also reached the 20-Point mark. The other Celtics starter in double figures was rookie Jayson Tatum with 16 points.
The Cavs were led by Kevin Love’s 17 points. It was the first game all playoffs in which LeBron James didn’t lead the Cavaliers in scoring. The four-time NBA MVP scored only 15 points on 5-for-16 shooting and missed all five of his 3-point attempts.
Overall, Cleveland’s starting five shot 16-for-49 (3-for-19 from beyond the arc). Boston’s starting five hit 34 of its 59 shot attempts (10-for-21 from 3-point range).
The Cavs will need much more from James, but perhaps more importantly from their role players in Game 2. Starters George Hill, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver combined for just 14 points on 6-for-19 shooting in Game 1.
“We got to find a way to mix it up,” Smith said. “We have to help ‘Bron. We just can’t expect him to do everything. As role players, we got to play our role.”
Here are some other notes from Celtics vs. Cavs Game 1:
— Here’s an interesting note on Brown:
— The Celtics gave arguably their best first-quarter performance of the season. They led 36-18 after 12 minutes, paced by Brown’s 13 points and a red-hot 61.9 percent shooting as a team. The Cavs shot just 33.3 percent (7-for-22) and missed a bunch of open shots.
Love had a particularly rough start. He picked up two early fouls trying to defend Horford in the low post. Horford finished the quarter with 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting.
Boston’s impressive start also put James in an early hole he’s not used to.
Here’s another historical note on the Celtics’ lead after one quarter:
— Boston’s 26-point halftime lead was its second-largest in playoff history. The team record is 30, which came in Game 1 of the 1985 NBA Finals (also known as the Memorial Day Massacre Game.)
— The Cavs’ 26-point halftime deficit was the largest halftime deficit of James’ playoff career.
— The Cavs outscored the Celtics 29-17 in the third quarter, which trimmed Boston’s lead to just 14 entering the final 12 minutes. But the Cavaliers couldn’t draw any closer as the C’s started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run, then extended the run to 18-4 before Cleveland burned its last timeout with 7:09 remaining. This huge Celtics spurt put the game away.
— The Celtics improve to 31-1 when leading by 16 or more points this season.
— Horford scored 20 points, marking the fifth game of this postseason he’s poured in 20-plus points. His previous high for 20-point games in a single playoff run was three.
— The Cavs shot poorly from behind the arc, hitting just four of 26 attempts (15.4 percent). No one on the Cavs roster hit more than one 3-pointer.
Cleveland did get plenty of open looks, though. James isn’t too worried about his team’s poor outside shooting, especially if they keep getting these open attempts.
“3-point shots is part of our DNA,” James said. “It’s what makes us the best team we can be. Even early on with the shots we had, we had some wide open looks that just didn’t go (in). I think in the first quarter J.R., (Kevin Love), (George Hill), they had some great looks, they just didn’t go. And we’re OK with that. We’re absolutely OK with that, and we’re going to take those same looks going into Game 2 if the opportunity presents itself.”
— Tatum left the game with 6:10 remaining in the fourth quarter and Boston up 98-70. He finished with 16 points, ending his streak of consecutive games scoring 20 or more points at seven. It’s the longest such streak by a rookie in Celtics playoff history, besting Larry Bird’s previous record of four.
— Morris struggled a lot with his shot in the second round, connecting on just 30 percent of his attempts and 31.8 percent of his 3-pointers. The veteran forward was much better in Game 1, scoring 21 points on 7-for-12 shooting (3-for-4 from beyond the arc). He also grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds and played pretty good defense on James.
— James turned the ball over seven times, his most in a single game this postseason. He turned the ball over just eight times in the entirety of Cleveland’s sweep of the Toronto Raptors in Round 2.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports
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