Success means agonizing over the worse parts of wins, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are heading into game 2 of their playoff series with the Boston Celtics with the 1-0 lead but also keeping in mind that not everything worked as planned in that game.
The Celtics started off shooting 57.1% from the field in the first quarter, but the Cavaliers went on a 53-25 early in the second quarter to turn things around and settle the game, winning 113-100. But despite Kyrie Irving leading the scoring with 30 points and LeBron James putting on a usual “doing everything” stat line, he insists Kevin Love is the key to success.
Kevin Love over the course of the regular season usually looked very good in the early goings of games, with more than 40% of his points and took more than 38%of his field-goal attempts in the first quarter. It was very different in the win over the Celtics, as if he only woke up and realized he’s finally in a playoff game (his career’s first) after the Cavaliers fell behind. He ended up scoring 19 points.
The Big Three concept stood out. When Love, Irving and James were on the floor together, they scored 127.2 points per 100 possessions and limited the Celtics, who had only Isaiah Thomas (22 points) playing well the entire game, to only 89.9. That’s the kind of net rating disparity that should have Brad Stevens very worried, because the trio didn’t even put on that special of a performance.
Maybe it begins with not allowing the Cavaliers to grab 15 offensive rebounds, or somehow changing his backcourt pairings, Thomas looked good in his minutes on the floor, but Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley seemed exhausted simply for trying to stay in front of Irving most of the game, not really succeeding in doing so, allowing him to score 30 points.
As Stevens put it, it’s going to take a full 48-minute effort to change the momentum this series seems to be settling into. The Celtics did beat the Cavaliers twice in the regular season but Irving didn’t play in both those games and the Cavs more or less wanted to lose. Playing like they mean it this time shows most of the differences between the two teams.
The jitters should be over for a lot of players who are in the playoffs for the first time on both sides of the court. For the Cavaliers, who have a bit more talent and veteran leadership to adjust to this new situation, this might mean an even better, more complete performance this time around, not giving the Celtics even a whiff of a chance.