LeBron James and the Cavaliers had their way with the Celtics in Game 1 (Jason Miller/Getty Images).Mike Gorman is an underrated icon.



If you can get hold of a play-by-play sheet from the first Celtics-Cavaliers playoff game, scan down to 1:59 remaining in the second quarter.



Granted, Sunday’s game between the Cavaliers and Celtics was questionably officiated, but J.R. Smith hardly has a case he didn’t deserve all four of his fouls — and maybe even more. But that didn’t stop the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year from complaining.

So, apparently Smith thinks Avery Bradley is getting superstar treatment, which is … interesting … since the Celtics guard attempted all of zero free throws, and Smith somehow still managed to complain after trucking Kelly Olynyk like a linebacker.

For the record, superstar treatment by officials is a thing. Just not for Bradley.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Raptors guard Lou Williams beat Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year honor by a significant margin,

Raptors guard Lou Williams beat Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year honor by a significant margin, the league announced on Monday morning.

Williams received 78 of the 130 possible first-place votes from a panel of sportswriters. His 34 second-place votes and 10 third-place votes gave him a total of 502 points. Meanwhile, Thomas received 33 first-place votes, 46 second-place votes and 21 third-place votes for a total of 324 points — the second-highest total in the voting.

Williams appeared on 122 of 130 ballots, as Jamal Crawford (131 points), Andre Iguodala (100), Tristan Thompson (33), Nikola Mirotic (24), Marreese Speights (20), Corey Brewer (12), Manu Ginobili (12), Taj Gibson (8), Aaron Brooks (1), Chris Kaman (1), Anthony Morrow (1) and Dennis Schroder (1) all received votes. How 30 writers left Thomas off the ballot entirely is a mystery.

We’ve already covered in great deal why Thomas deserved the award over Williams, so we won’t get too far into the weeds here, except to say Thomas averaged more points, assists and rebounds while shooting better from everywhere on the floor and submitting a superior player efficiency rating.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach
Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

Game 1 went pretty much according to script for the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose big three combined for 69 points, 13 assists and five offensive rebounds in a 113-100 victory. And while the Celtics did a decent job of containing LeBron James, they enjoyed much greater success with Jae Crowder defending the four-time NBA MVP than starting wing Evan Turner.

So, should Celtics coach Brad Stevens consider starting Crowder over Turner in Game 2? Based on the evidence from their first showing in Cleveland, Stevens must at least play Crowder with greater regularity opposite James in the superstar’s 40-plus minutes.

LeBron played a total of 42 minutes in Cleveland’s Game 1 victory, and Crowder only shared the court with him for roughly half of that time period (20.2). Now, consider this number: The Celtics were 38.7 points per 100 possessions better with Crowder opposite LeBron than with their hard-nosed forward on the bench, according to NBA.com/stats.

In 20.2 minutes with Crowder on the floor, LeBron was a minus-7 against the C’s, finishing 3-for-8 from the field (0-for-4 from mid-range) to go along with four assists and four turnovers. In 21.8 minutes with Crowder on the bench, James was a plus-10, going 5-for-10 (5-for-5 in the paint) with three assists and one turnover. Granted, that’s a limited sample size, but the eye test bears out a similar discrepancy.

Let’s first examine each of LeBron’s eight shot attempts with Crowder on the floor.

  • 1. Crowder demonstrated good footwork in keeping LeBron in front of him and forcing a failed jumper.

  • 2. LeBron made a tough running left-handed bank shot over Crowder and a crowd in the paint.
  • 3. Twice Tristan Thompson set a pick for James, and each time Tyler Zeller hedged, allowing Crowder to recover and initially force LeBron to reset the offense before ultimately missing a contested jumper.

  • 4. LeBron beat Crowder off the dribble, but Zeller forced an errant shot in the restricted area.
  • 5. With Marcus Smart defending and not Crowder, James converted a pull-up 3-pointer.
  • 6. Crowder defended James straight-up in the high post, and then forced another failed jumper.

  • 7. James beat Crowder off the dribble for a layup.
  • 8. Crowder twice worked his way over and around Timofey Mozgov picks and showed tremendous footwork to remain in front of James and force yet another contested long jumper that sailed wide.

Not bad, right? Only once did Crowder truly get burned for an easy basket. Now, contrast that performance with LeBron’s 10 field goal attempts without Crowder on the court, and it’s a completely different story.

  • 1. Smart and Turner, who both beat LeBron down the floor, failed to contest his transition layup.
  • 2. LeBron beat Smart off the dribble and made a tough layup over a helping Kelly Olynyk.
  • 3. LeBron backed Turner down from the elbow and converted an easy layup.
  • 4. Seeing Turner isolated against LeBron in the left corner, Zeller came out to help, forcing an errant turnaround jump shot, but Zeller’s double team left Thompson alone underneath for an offensive rebound and an easy dunk.
  • 5. With Turner chasing and failing to deliver a hard foul, James scored an easy transition layup off a steal.
  • 6. LeBron missed an ill-advised long 3-pointer in an attempt to go 2-for-1 in the final 30 seconds of the half.
  • 7. LeBron beat Turner off the dribble for an easy layup.
  • 8. Brandon Bass switched onto James once Turner got picked, and James missed a contested 3-pointer.
  • 9. As Turner tried to recover and contest, LeBron missed an open catch-and-shoot jumper as the shot clock expired.
  • 10. LeBron attempted to back Avery Bradley into the post, but managed only an errant turnaround jumper.

While Turner often required help — setting a series of defensive rotations in motion that often led to a) open Cavaliers, b) a LeBron make or c) second chances off a miss — Crowder stood a better chance of defending the Cavs star 1-on-1 and thus allowed his teammates to stand their ground and be in better position to rebound.

Even in a larger sample size, Crowder offered the C’s a better chance against James. In 17 regular-season minutes opposite Crowder, James scored 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting (5-of-8 in the paint, 2-of-5 from mid-range and 0-for-3 from 3) with two assists against a pair of turnovers. In 64 minutes sans Crowder, James netted 47 points on 20-of-35 shooting (11-of-15 in the paint, 5-of-11 from mid-range and 4-of-9 from 3) with 18 assists against four turnovers. LeBron remains impossible to stop, but Crowder at least lints the damage.

Surely, Stevens has seen this evidence, so don’t be surprised if Crowder sees a lot more time on Tuesday.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

The Celtics kept LeBron James in relative check, and still lost Game 1 to the

The Celtics kept LeBron James in relative check, and still lost Game 1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers by double digits — an ominous sign for the remainder of their first-round playoff series.

James finished with 20 points on 18 shots and added seven assists with five turnovers, so instead Kyrie Irving made the Celtics pay, scoring 30 points in a 113-100 victory that gave the Cavs a 1-0 series lead. Kevin Love added a double-double (19 points, 12 rebounds).

The Celtics actually owned the lead 20 minutes into the game, thanks to 55 points from their bench, but couldn’t overcome Cleveland’s 15 offensive rebounds and 13 3-pointers. Isaiah Thomas led six C’s in double figures with 22 points and 10 assists. Kelly Olynyk and Evan Turner added 12 points apiece, while Brandon Bass, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder each added 10.

For the complete box score, click here.

SOLID START

After the first quarter, this series seemed like it might go longer than anyone anticipated. The Celtics scored 31 points on 57.1 percent shooting, taking a 31-27 lead into the second frame. Tyler Zeller did the damage with six points against his former team early, Turner drained a corner 3-pointer to tie the game at 11 midway through the first quarter, and the bench carried the load late to take a 31-27 lead.

KO PUNCH

Olynyk couldn’t have enjoyed a better start to his first playoff appearance. Demonstrating the breadth of his offensive skill set, Olynyk drove baseline to score his first basket a minute after checking into the game, and then knocked down a 3-pointer on his next trip down the floor to give the C’s a 16-13 lead. Two minutes later, he threw down a driving dunk past fellow Canadian Tristan Thompson, and his second 3 of the game gave him 10 points in the opening quarter.

STARPOWER Cleveland’s stars were bound to take over at some point, and Irving was the first to make the Celtics pay, scoring 12 of his 20 first-half points in a second quarter that saw the Cavaliers drop 35 points and turn an eight-point deficit into an eight-point lead by halftime. The All-Star point guard made eight of his 12 shots in the opening 24 minutes, including all four of his 3-point attempts — the last of which came at the buzzer and gave Cleveland their 62-54 halftime edge.

REBOUNDING

In what may very well have been Celtics coach Brad Stevens‘ first between-quarter sideline interview on national TV, he wasn’t satisfied with his team’s four-point lead after the first quarter, if only because of Cleveland’s 27 points at the time. The C’s were defending well, but giving the Cavaliers too many second-chance points, and the rebounding edge caught up with them in the second quarter and beyond. All in all, the Cavs grabbed 14 offensive boards and out-rebounded the Celtics 35-12 through three quarters, taking a 91-76 lead into the fourth.

CLOSING THE THIRD QUARTER

The Cavaliers opened a 20-point lead with 4:33 left in the third after four straight points from Kevin Love, but the Celtics answered with a 14-0 run to cut the deficit down to six on the strength of reserves Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Marcus Smart. And then it all went to hell. The Cavs closed the quarter on a 9-0 run, including a James Jones 3 for their second buzzer beater in as many quarters, and established an insurmountable lead going into the fourth.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach
Greg Dickerson and John Tomase discuss the amazing season for the Celts and if they have any chance against Lebron and the Cleveland Cavs in a seven game series. If they do, HOW ... how do they get it done?

The Celtics have a lot to offer pending free agents, including the chance to play for coach Brad Stevens.</p>
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CHRIS VILLANI

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