The showdown for the top seed in the East did not go as planned for the Boston Celtics. The first quarter left fans optimistic, but LeBron James and the Cavs dominated for the remaining three frames to hand Boston a 114-91 loss. Outside of Isaiah Thomas (who still shot 1-8 from three), Al Horford, and Kelly Olnynyk, the Celtics shooting was horrific.
Both teams struggled to find their shot out of the gate, shooting under 30% for eight minutes. Cleveland was 1-11 from downtown, while the Celtics were 2-8. With no shot blockers manning the rim for the Cavs, though, Isiah began slithering past defenders and attacking the paint. This proved to be much more successful:
It's the Isaiah Thomas show early on in this contest! pic.twitter.com/ucSjUe11d3— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 6, 2017
IT used his shifty handles to score 12 of Boston's 20 first quarter points.
Even without Tristin Thompson, who averages 9.3 boards per game, the Cavs crashed the offensive glass hard. They grabbed seven of their missed shots in the opening six minutes, as Kevin Love went on to snatch eight rebounds in eleven minutes. These second chances kept the Cavs right in the game despite their 26% field goal percentage for the quarter:
Isaiah Thomas notches 12 points & 3 boards in the 1Q, and the C's have a 20-19 lead over the Cavs. BOS held CLE to 26.9% shooting in the 1st— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 6, 2017
The Celtics' defense, after a strong first quarter showing, had multiple miscues in the second that gave LeBron and Richard Jefferson easy, uncontested dunks. That, plus little Celtics offense with Isaiah on the bench, allowed the reigning champs to go on an 18-4 run and open a 13-point lead on the green.
At that point, James simply started playing bully ball. The four-time MVP went around, over, and through Celtic defenders to put up 16 points in 16 minutes. The C's second unit couldn't do nothing about it, either:
22-4 Cavaliers run over the 6:03 Isaiah Thomas has been on the bench.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) April 6, 2017
After what felt like forever, Coach Stevens got his starters back in and they instantly went on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 10. Jae Crowder put an exclamation point on the seventh point of the scoring run, getting the crowd back into the game in the process:
Crowder throws down the baseline jam off the beautiful feed from Green! pic.twitter.com/gbFupefZbN— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 6, 2017
However, the Cavs' big three got right back to work to expand their lead once again. Isaiah and Horford, who scored 29 of Boston's 42 first half points, were shooting well. The rest of the Celtics, though, shot 5-24 - an eyebrow-raising 21% - from the floor. It was a very, very rough half outside of the paint:
The Celtics were 4-of-26 outside the paint in the first half tonight pic.twitter.com/iyb7ePTj0m— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 6, 2017
Isaiah finished the half with 17, but LeBron had half of his teams' points to power them to a comfortable halftime lead:
#Celtics trail #Cavaliers 57-42 after giving up 38 pts in the 2Q. James 19, Irving 10; Thomas 17, Horford 12.— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) April 6, 2017
Following the break, Boston still couldn't snap their cold shooting spell outside of the paint. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers picked up right where they left off. They outshot, outrebounded, and straight up outplayed the Celtics to add onto their lead. Kyrie Irving picked up his play by creating space and knocking down tough shots.
Boston's bench was brutal in the first half and that trend carried over into the second. Without Isaiah, scoring was a major issue:
With two minutes left in the third quarter, the #Celtics bench has 3 points tonight on 1-for-14 shooting.— Scott Souza (@Scott_Souza) April 6, 2017
The Celtics were outscored 33-24 in the quarter and although down by 29 at one point, went into the final frame down 24 points:
#Cavaliers lead #Celtics 90-66 after 3Q. LeBron with 26 pts, 8 reb and 4 ast, Love with 12 pts and 14 reb, Irving 19; Thomas 23, Horford 12.— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) April 6, 2017
Olynyk was finally able to get something going for the Celtics' bench and chipped four points off the deficit. Down 20 with eight minutes to go, Stevens brought back the starters for one last push. With most of the Clevland starters still on the floor, though, nothing would prevail. Stevens took the starters out again four minutes later and waved the white flag for good.
LeBron just loves playing Boston. He put up 36 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. Love grabbed 16 boards to go with his 15 points. For the Celts, Isaiah put up 26, Crowder added 13, and Horford and Olynyk finished with 12 in the losing effort. The end result sees Boston falling a game back of the Cavs for the No. 1 seed and will make it unlikely to recapture it the rest of the way.
The Celtics will have a chance to bounce right back tomorrow when they face the Atlanta Hawks.
Follow Erik Johnson on Twitter: @erikjohnson32
Photo by @celtics Erik Johnson 4/05/2017 10:35:00 PM Tweet Edit