Led by LeBron James‘ dynamic 38-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist outing Wednesday night, Cleveland remained unbeaten this post-season while usurping home-court advantage from #1 seeded Boston.
Following the Cavaliers’ 117-104 sprint to victory, these are five key storylines from Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals.
1. LeBron’s sustained greatness: While scoring 30+ points in a seventh consecutive playoff contest, LeBron James accelerated by, shot over, and simply overmatched a bevy of Celtic defenders. Deep into his storied career, vs. Boston James looked every bit the world’s best player, while still showcasing unrivaled athleticism.
During Cleveland’s current 9-0 playoff run, LeBron is averaging 34.7 ppg, 9 rpg, and 7.1 apg on stellar 55/46/72 shooting.
Ahead of Game Two, the onus to slow James via strategic adjustments falls squarely upon Brad Stevens.
2. Cavaliers’ first-half glass work: Cleveland’s 28-14 first-half rebounding advantage helped the Cavaliers roll to an easy victory. Overall, Kevin Love (12), Tristan Thompson (9), and James (9) out-rebounded Boston’s starting frontline 30-17. Thompson’s six offensive rebounds –and 20 points– proved too much for the home-standing Celts to overcome.
3. Cleveland front-line scoring: In addition to besting the Celtics’ opening bigs on the glass, the trio of James (38), Love (32), and Thompson (20) combined for 90 points: this staggering amount almost tripled Boston’s 32 points from Jae Crowder (21) and Al Horford (11) as Amir Johnson remained scoreless.
4. Free-throw discrepancy: The Cavs’ rim onslaught resulted in a +18 FTM and +17 FTA advantage vs. Boston. Again, Cleveland’s superior starting frontline excelled while making 29 foul-line trips.
5. Boston’s undisciplined defense: Highlighted by 26 PF’s, the Celtics struggled to establish adequate defensive positioning vs. Cleveland. Marcus Smart fouled out, while Horford (4), and Crowder (5) remained tentative due to foul trouble.
Overall, as the numbers clearly indicate, Cleveland’s determined and versatile pivots took the play from Boston early and often. Now three Cavalier wins are all that separate LeBron James and company from a third straight NBA Finals showdown opposite Golden State.
Meanwhile, competition between the East’s top teams resumes Friday night from the TD Garden Arena.