Can Cavaliers Send Celtics Into Panic Mode with a Game 2 Cover?
Celtics with their last chance to prove a point at home
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Had you told the Boston Celtics before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals that LeBron James would shoot 1-of-6 from downtown, and that they would hit more threes overall than the Cleveland Cavaliers, I guarantee you they would have signed up for it.
Which makes the actual outcome to Game 1 all the more crazy.
The Celtics trailed by as many as 28 points, eventually losing 117-104. That the deficit wasn’t larger than this is actually surprising. Boston was that bad.
James had the Celtics’ number all night long. He reached the rim at will, got some of their defenders in to foul trouble and fired passes at impossible angles to wide-open shooters. He was so good, the Cavaliers actually left points on the board. Not everyone around him was hitting their shots all game.
This idea that the Cavaliers’ offense might actually have another level to reach isn’t good news for the Celtics. They had issues of their own on offense. They attempted enough threes (38) to hang with the Cavaliers, but they only converted 12, for an accuracy rate of 31.6 percent. That’s nowhere near good enough.
The Celtics’ lone hope in this series is to match the Cavaliers’ efficiency and volume from long distance. That can make up for the variance in every other part of the game. They only mustered the volume in Game 1, which isn’t even half-encouraging, since the Cavaliers will continue to fire away from deep even more.
The good news? Boston’s offense can be better.
Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas won’t shoot 4-of-15 combined from three-point land every game. Al Horford and Kelly Olynyk should be able to find their strokes as well. The entire team should improve organically.
After all, the Celtics weren’t exactly getting bad shots. Thirty of their 38 three-pointers came with a defender four or more feet away from them in Game 1, according to NBA.com. Thing is, they shot just 33.3 percent in those situations. And they were just 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) on wide-open threebies—defined as a shot where the defender is at least six feet away.
That’s both unacceptable and unsustainably bad. The Celtics should find a way to generate more offense from different area codes.
Everything else comes back to limiting the damage at the other end. They aren’t going to stop James, who wrapped with 38 points on 14-of-24 shooting in Game 1. They aren’t going to contain him, either.
What they can do is shut down all of his best castmates to even the playing field. They did a good job with Kyrie Irving the first time around, so now they need to address Kevin Love’s Game 1 detonation on Friday night.
Bet on the Celtics doing just that. They probably won’t win, but not all of these games can be blowouts. Boston is too talented for that.
The Pick: Boston Celtics (+5.5)
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