The return of LeBron James to the playoffs with the Cleveland Cavaliers starts off well, beating the Boston Celtics 113-100 in a dominant offensive game from him and overall from the big three that includes Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
For Love and Irving this game was a playoff debut. Irving led the Cavs with 30 points, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. Kevin Love scored 19 points on 5-of-14 from the field, but actually did more than just stand on the corner and stretch the floor, doing a good job of attacking the rim and getting to the line, finishing with 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
James, not the oldest player on his team but certainly the one expected to not just carry them in ability but lead the way as well, settled for 20 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. It was Cleveland’s first playoff win since May 1, 2010. James has been on the court for every Cavaliers playoff win since 1998, and the franchise hasn’t gotten past the first round without him since 1993.
The Celtics had some good moments in the start, but eventually, their defense seemed to be a bit indecisive on who to focus on. Brad Stevens talked after the game about the ‘pick your poison’ situation and how they didn’t handle it all that well. After the big second quarter run by the Cavs to finally create some separation, the Celtics never got closer than 6 points in the second half.
The Cavaliers opened a 20 point lead in the third quarter but a 14-0 run by the Celtics made it seem like we just might have a game on our hands in the final moments. Isaiah Thomas gave the Cavaliers problems defensively, but he was about the only one. Not enough spacing, not enough outside shooting (five less 3-pointers than the Cavaliers) and simply not enough to keep up offensively.
Besides the big three which Kyrie Irving was so happy talking about after the game, Tristan Thompson was the only one in double figures, scoring 12 points. Timofey Mozgov finished with 6 points but was very difficult to score against in the paint (3 blocks) while James Jones with a couple of 3-pointers that put a dagger in the Celtics’ comeback run showed why James made the effort to bring him along for the ride in the summer.
So the new Big Three James is a part of made its way mostly without too many problems on its playoff debut. It wasn’t perfect basketball, but that’s expected. Would be champions don’t always give it their all right from the start, especially when they don’t have to. The Celtics can be better offensively, but without making more of an impact defensively, it’ll be hard for them to keep up in this series.