Celtics thrash Cavaliers 102-88 in season-opener rematch
While it wasn't the starting lineup many of us hoped to see with Isaiah Thomas out, the first two buckets, had by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving - made for a fitting start for this long-anticipated rematch between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.
It was the LeBron show early in the first, with James taking it to the basket with ease seemingly every trip down the court, but a slow-moving if well-oiled Cs squad mounting a balanced offense kept Boston ahead or a possession behind. Jaylen Brown had a scary fall after Jae Crowder collided with him as he was taking a three on the break. Unfazed, Brown would take it to the rack a few plays later fearlessly, giving the Celtics their largest lead of the night, 17-11 with about five minutes left in the first.
Marcus Smart began to catch fire shortly after, draining a trey and hitting a nasty floater to push the lead to nine, and hustle on both ends of the floor bolstered by some microwave scoring by Terry Rozier put Boston up 32-21 to close out the opening frame.
Marcus Smart is about to be a 33% 3PT shooter and when that happens the world probably ends
It took a minute of game time for a basket to fall in the second, a quick jumper from the elbow by Aron Baynes, but both teams fell into a slump, and Aron turned his ankle not long after getting back on defense. Back-to-back treys by Kyle Korver threatened to get the Cavs back into it, only to see Daniel Theis hit back with a pair interrupted by Korver hitting yet another for an epic mini-duel.
LeBron started to get hot again, getting Cleveland to within five before the Cavs had a scary moment of their own, with Kevin Love turning his ankle in a scrum for a rebound. Love was evidently able to continue, but Smart got another trey to fall to push the lead back to eight with just under five in the half. An old-school three-point play by Jeff Green got the led down to four, but a Kyrie trey and Al Horford hustle on both ends pushed it back to nine, but a last-second steal by Smart finished by Terry put Boston up 55-47 at the half despite a trey from JR Smith.
The second half opened with a bucket by Tatum followed shortly after by a trey from Jaylen - after several possessions of circus-like scrambling for loose balls more reminiscent of a Harlem Globetrotters exposition. A pair of threes from Tatum and Horford forced a timeout at the nine-minute mark, with the Celts up 14.
Tatum continued to punish the Cavs, however, hitting another jumper, and then getting to the charity stripe where he converted both to push the lead to 16, and Horford and Irving pushed the lead to 20 off a dunk and traditional three-point play. Smith chipped away at the lead with a pair of two-point buckets, aided by Green and Korver until Jaylen came alive, punctuated by a pair of dunks leaving the Celts up 14 to start the final frame, 81-68.
Rozier hit a quick layup to open the fourth, and the lead was extended to 19 via buckets from Tatum and Baynes, who looked to be OK after the early ankle roll. The Cavs would cut the lead to 16 behind makes from Crowder and Tristan Thompson. Rozier would erase that with an eight-point, one-man mini-run of his own to give Boston its biggest lead of the evening at 98-77.
The Cavs would threaten to heat up a few more times as the quarter wound down, but Cleveland just couldn't find their groove, and the Celts finished the first half of their season with a win over their Eastern Conference rivals with a convincing 102-88 win. Boston next faces the Minnesota Timberwolves at home this Friday, January 5th at 7 pm.
Celtics are Eastern Conference best 31-10 & have beat the Warriors, Cavs, Rockets, Spurs, & Raptors-- all without Gordon Hayward.