The Cleveland Cavaliers displayed little signs of rust in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals and look to take a 2-0 lead when they visit the Boston Celtics on Friday. Cleveland had been off since May 7 before annihilating Boston for the first three quarters of Wednesday’s Game 1 and settling for a 117-104 victory.
The second-seeded Cavaliers are 9-0 in the postseason and are the recipients of a slew of superb efforts by forward LeBron James, who had 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in Game 1. “He’s playing at a high level, and that’s the reason why we’re riding him so much,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. “When LeBron’s playing at that level other guys just have to be solid and we have a good chance to win.” The third-seeded Celtics are looking to avoid digging a huge hole at home but point guard Isaiah Thomas declared his squad isn’t intimidated. “They lace up their shoes just like us,” Thomas told reporters on Thursday. “They just happened to play better than us in Game 1. We just gotta protect home court in Game 2 and get the win.”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS: James is averaging 34.8 points, nine rebounds and 7.1 assists in the postseason and scored 30 or more points in each of the last seven games. He received help in Game 1 from power forward Kevin Love (career playoff-high 32 points to go with 12 rebounds) and center Tristan Thompson, who tallied a career playoff-best 20 points on 7-of-7 shooting. “I felt like everybody was moving the ball, passing the ball well,” Love, who drained six 3-pointers, told reporters. “On both ends of the floor our game plan was pretty tight.”
ABOUT THE CELTICS: Thomas tallied just 17 points on 7-of-19 shooting in the opener, marking the fourth time in the past six games he scored fewer than 20 points. As the contest spiraled away from Boston, rookie forward Jaylen Brown made a case for more time in the series by producing 10 points (on 5-of-7 shooting) and nine rebounds in 20 minutes and going toe-to-toe with James after more experienced Celtics were exposed. “It was just playing basketball,” Brown told reporters. “He laces his shoes up like I lace mine up. Coming out, playing basketball and trying to make it tough for him. I feel that’s my job.”
1. The Cavaliers won their first 10 games last postseason en route to winning the NBA title.
2. Cleveland PG Kyrie Irving scored just 11 points in Game 1, his lowest output of the postseason.
3. Boston backup C Kelly Olynyk tallied just two points in the opener after scoring a playoff career-high 26 in the final game of the series against the Washington Wizards on Monday.
PREDICTION: Cavaliers 116, Celtics 112