Celtics

Celtics

The reaction to Game 1 was all about LeBron. People wondered why he fell silent, Stephen A. Smith had a hilarious little video and LeBron acted like a tool in his press conference. Fun stuff. 

That's the way this series is going to be. No matter what happens, it will be about LeBron because he's the best player in the world. Brad Stevens coaches up a storm? It will be about Brad Stevens coaching his way past LeBron. Jaylen Brown turns in a full series worth of performances like Game 1? Jaylen Brown outplayed LeBron. 

Some sports' best players aren't necessarily its biggest stars. That's not the case for the NBA and LeBron James. So when LeBron James is involved, you already know what the story is. 

Yet it's one thing to make it about LeBron James. It's a much different (and awfully silly) thing to make any grand statements about LeBron James after one game of the series. Most of you have probably heard that LeBron has won the last five series in which he's trailed, 1-0. All of you are aware that LeBron James is a lot better than he was Sunday.

 

The result of this series might not depend on LeBron. It will depend on whether LeBron has anything of value around him. He didn't on Sunday; Kevin Love was meh and the rest of Cleveland's starters totaled 31 points. The whole team was held to 35 points in the first half. They're bad defensively. It's entirely possible that this team kind of stinks. One could say LeBron is the least of the Cavaliers' concerns, but then again he's also their only hope. 

In his press conference, James belittled a reporter with a very condescending, "I don't know if you've followed my career" spiel about how he uses the first game of a series to feel out the opponent. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life, but honestly it's more believable than LeBron James only putting up 15 points a game for a whole series. 

The sad thing if you're a Celtics fan is that, perhaps even without a supporting cast, James is capable of beating a better team -- within reason -- at any time. Hell, even in that extremely un-LeBron performance, he was sniffing around a triple double (seven rebounds, nine assists).

Factor in the likelihood that James will get to the line more than six times a night and the fact that some of these games will be in Cleveland and you're left with the conclusion that Game 1 ruled, but it will be an outlier. Maybe it won't be an outlier based on the fact that the Celtics outplayed the Cavs, but it will be based on LeBron not being much of a factor. 

Now, can we read into how the other Cavaliers played? Sure. It's totally within reason that Kevin Love will be just OK, as he was Sunday. He played like that in the first round, when the Pacers nearly eliminated the Cavs. He was really good the next round, but it's harder and harder with each passing day to put any stock in something that involved the Raptors. 

The Cavaliers have been a team in flux nearly all season, from the injuries and struggles early on to the deadline day team swap. Yet the one constant is LeBron James. He's the best player in the world. We know that he'll be better, way better even. What we don't know is whether that will be enough. 

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