BOSTON – Having spent four years (2009-2013) as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics, Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue knows just how impactful the Celtics faithful can be on a game at the TD Garden.
That’s why one of the primary goals heading into Game 1 against the Celtics was to try and get off to the best start possible.
“This crowd is unbelievable, so we wanted to come out early and try to take the crowd out,” Lue said.
Cleveland opened with a 22-9 run that put the Celtics on their heels for the rest of the night as the Cavs came away with a 117-104 win.
LeBron James set the tone with 15 first-quarter points on 7-for-8 shooting, before finishing with a near triple-double of 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens acknowledged the fast start by the Cavs put his team in a tailspin that they were never able to recover from.
“You never want that this to happen, but I felt like that zapped us on the other end a little bit,” Stevens said. “You know, we missed some makeable opportunities. They did a great job of attacking the paint, and it was clear that those guys had really emphasized that.”
Indeed, whatever defensive wall Boston tried to put up as resistance to Cleveland, James and teammate Kevin Love were the battering rams that blew everything to pieces.
And when the Celtics managed to slow down James’ penetration, he consistently found Love wide open or lightly contested.
That led to a monster game for the big man who finished with a double-double of 32 points and 12 rebounds.
And so here are the Celtics, a talented team that Cleveland jumped on from the outset which put Boston in a hole that they could never quite fully navigate their way out of.
There’s a laundry list of problems that the Celtics will look to correct between now and Friday’s Game 2 matchup.
But more than anything else, the Celtics have to do a better job at the start of games. Because as we saw in Game 1, getting behind early to this team is a sure-fire recipe for defeat.
“I was really encouraged by the last 18 minutes of the game and some of the things that we did,” Stevens said. “And I know that we have to play a lot better at the start. You can’t dig yourself a hole like that against them.”