BOSTON – The idea that the Boston Celtics were able to defeat Cleveland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday isn’t all that shocking.
But the way they did it, more than the win itself, was what really stood out.
Boston’s 108-83 Game 1 win over the Cavs was due to Boston doing what few teams have been able to do against LeBron James this postseason -- limit his impact as well as the impact of those around him.
The supporting cast of James in the starting five was 11-for-33 (33.3 percent) shooting from the field with all having a negative plus/minus ranging from -10 (Kyle Korver) to -17 (J.R. Smith).
James’ stat line was certainly on a triple-double trajectory -- 15 points on 5-for-16 shooting to go with seven rebounds and nine assists – but his impact on the game was as bad as we’ve seen from James, ever.
Look no further than his plus/minus for the game being -32, which tied the worst plus/minus for James in a playoff game since facing San Antonio in the NBA Finals in 2013.
And as bad as James was, his teammates collectively were even worst.
Some might attribute it to the long layoff. Others might point to Boston simply having one of those nights when seemingly everything goes thei4 way. While there’s certainly merit in both of those possibilities, what was undeniable to anyone who saw the game was how Boston took the Cavs out of anything and everything they wanted to do. And that was with James on or off the floor.
And while Cleveland should chalk it up to being just one of those nights, there were certain things that have the potential to be major problems for the Cavs going forward.
James didn’t look to take over how we’ve seen him do in playoff games.
MORE ANALYSIS FROM GAME 1
Part of that had to do with the lanes he’s used to creating with his dribble-drive or off favorable matchups, just didn’t present themselves as abundantly as he’s used to. When defended by Marcus Morris, James at times got a step on him driving to the rim, only to see Jaylen Brown ready to make the defensive switch. On another possession, it was Jayson Tatum or Semi Ojeleye stepping up to provide that help defense that just refused to allow James to enter deep into the post off the dribble with any kind of regularity.
But don’t think for a minute that the Celtics feel they’ve got the cheat code on how to deal with James, who they anticipate will be a lot more aggressive in Game 2 on Tuesday.
“LeBron is LeBron,” said Terry Rozier. “He is going to make some crazy plays and he is going to do what he does. We are just going to try to make it as tough for him as we can. The other guys, obviously [Kevin] Love and J.R. Smith, we don’t want to give them open looks, Kyle Korver, people like that, so we have to take that away too. That has been a big emphasis the last couple of days. We did a good job and we just have to keep it up.”