Jaylen Brown could have an increased role in Game 2. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Jaylen Brown could have an increased role in Game 2. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

If the Celtics were looking for a bright spot from their 117-104 defeat at the hands of the Cavaliers in Game 1, it came with the performance of the 20-year-old Jaylen Brown. 

In 19 minutes off the bench, Brown was the C’s most effective shooter, with makes on all but two of his seven shots (10 points), and paced all Celtics with nine rebounds. It’s the impact that could and should lead to a greater role in what feels like a must-win Game 2.

Especially if the Celtics are serious about trying to find ways to stop LeBron James, who torched the club for 38 points in 41 minutes. 

“We’ve got to help each other, we’ve got to have each other’s backs a little bit more,” Brown said of the plan against James. “He got to the paint, and I think he wanted to establish himself in the paint. We’ve got to do a better job of letting him see people in there and having more help defense. He’s a good player, but we’ve got to come out and make it more tough than we did last game.”

Of course, asking a player that was in high school just two years ago to stop the best player in the world seems like a tall, borderline ridiculous, task, but it’s one that Brown himself has felt ready for based on his personal expectations. 

“It’s kind of crazy thinking like how I was just in high school two years ago, now I’m here playing in the Eastern Conference Finals against the defending champs, so it’s kind of cool,” Brown said, who later mentioned that he would have believed it back then had you told him that he would playing in the Eastern Conference Finals as an NBA rookie. 

“You never know when your name is going to be called, and just how to win, the little things that go into winning,” Brown, one of just three Celtics players (Gerald Green and James Young were the others) with a plus rating in Game 1, said. “I think that learning that early as opposed to learning that late has helped me out in my career, people like Gerald Green who has been in my ear from the beginning, he’s been in the league a lot and he’s been in the league, out of the league, but he’s always made an effort to come talk to me, and he’s been a perfect example for me, so I learned a lot from him about how to be ready and how to take advantage of every situation because you don’t know how situations might end up.”

So, what changes will Brad Stevens make when given the James on Brown — or anybody else, for that matter — matchup?

“We just have to make it as difficult as possible as a group,” said Stevens. 

“I think once you take up space and [James] beats you by a step, he sprays it to a wide-open shooter. I think there are a lot of things that I think sound good in theory,” the C’s coach continued. “I just think we have to do our best to mix it up appropriately without overdoing it, and make sure that we try our best to keep him in front. Obviously, if we want to keep him in front, we don’t want him shooting layups — like probably you’re thinking Jae [Crowder] with the downhill drives. We had a few that I thought he made great shots where we actually guarded him pretty well. But at the end of the day, that’s all easier said and done.”

“All I can do is be ready,” noted Brown. “That’s my job, to play basketball, so I’m just going to be ready if Coach calls me.

“This is the biggest game of my career, and I’m ready to step up to the challenge.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Isaiah Thomas has been named to the All-NBA Second Team. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas has been named to the All-NBA Second Team. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas may have been named to the All-NBA Second Team on Thursday, but the chip on his shoulder is still All-NBA First Team.

“What do you think?” Thomas said when asked if he should have made the All-NBA First Team. “No, it don’t seem right [not making it]. But I’m blessed, man. I’m appreciative. It’s been a pretty good year for my team and for myself individually, so I mean, that kind of stuff goes to my teammates and this organization.”

“What we’ve all learned about Isaiah is all the different things that he can do. I think that it’s so much at this level about finding the right guys for the right groups, and he fits perfect with our guys,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “They need what he does well. He needs what they do well. But he’s put in a lot of work.

“He’s as consistent and hard of a worker as I’ve ever been around.”

But Thomas finishing as the third-best is in line with his season. 

His 28.9 points per game ranked as the third-most in the NBA this season, behind OKC’s Russell Westbrook’s league-leading 31.6 points per night and Houston guard James Harden’s 29.1 per night. Harden, by the way, finished with a perfect 500 points on his ballot, named to the All-NBA First Team on all 100 ballots, while Westbrook was named to the First Team on 99 ballots. Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the season, and Harden’s perhaps the best pure scorer in today’s game. 

So it was on the Second Team that Thomas, whose fourth quarter performances became the stuff of legend this season, landed, with Warriors guard Steph Curry, forward Kevin Durant, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, and Pelicans center Anthony Davis.

It’s some truly elite company that the 5-foot-9 Thomas always believed he could be part of, too. 

“I always knew I could do what I’m doing right now, but that was just proving to other people. I mean, it says a lot, but I want to be so much better,” Thomas, the 60th overall pick from his draft class, said. “I’ve got so much more room for improvement in so many areas. That was definitely a goal of mine, and we got it. Now it’s on to bigger and better things.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a reminder that the Celtics are still at least one superstar piece away from competing with LeBron James and the Cavaliers for the East’s crown. 

Jimmy Butler has long been rumored as a trade target for the Celtics. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Jimmy Butler has long been rumored as a trade target for the Celtics. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a reminder that the Celtics are still at least one superstar piece away from competing with LeBron James and the Cavaliers for the East’s crown. 

They have the assets to make it happen, too. 

But don’t expect a massive C’s trade to come this summer, at least based on the latest report from The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski

“I think with Boston and L.A. getting No. 1 and No. 2, I think it makes it highly unlikely that Butler and George are involved in trades with those two teams,” Wojnarowski said when asked about ‘big moves’ from the Celtics and Lakers. “Danny Ainge at No. 1 now, with Jimmy Butler, they dealt with this at the trade deadline last spring.”

As alluded to, the Celtics have rumored to be in on Butler for years now, but Ainge’s hesitancy to pull the trigger on any Butler deal likely comes back to what’s considered their big summertime plans in free agency.

“Boston is really focused on trying to get Gordon Hayward from Utah in free agency,” Wojnarowski said.

Hayward, by the way, are now unable to sign a ‘mega max deal’ with the Jazz (five-year, $207 million), as he was left off an All-NBA team. The same goes for Indiana’s Paul George, a player that the rebuilding Lakers seem to believe they can land in 2018, either via a trade or as a free agent. Those misses for the Jazz and Pacers seem to be gains for either the Celtics or Lakers, too.

“Why trade assets to get Butler when you think you might have a chance at Hayward in the summer where they have the cap space to sign him in and you don’t have to trade anything?” Wojnarowski noted. “Boston could possibly know closer to the draft where they stand with Hayward, but I think Danny Ainge has not gone ‘all in’ with this group yet. And having the No. 1 pick this year, and potentially the No. 1 overall pick again next year with Brooklyn’s pick again, he doesn’t have to take that kind of a risk.

“I think Boston preserves its cap space and goes really hard after Hayward on July 1.”

Hayward, 27, averaged a career-high 21.9 points per game this season. 

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The reigning NBA champion Cavaliers toyed with the Celtics in last night’s 117-104 final at TD Garden. It, at times, looked like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon, with the C’s playing the role of Wile E.

Isaiah Thomas had 17 points in a Game 1 loss to the Cavs. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas had 17 points in a Game 1 loss to the Cavs. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The reigning NBA champion Cavaliers toyed with the Celtics in last night’s 117-104 final at TD Garden. It, at times, looked like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon, with the C’s playing the role of Wile E. Coyote and LeBron James as the Road Runner. 

But Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas opted for a different cartoon analogy when explaining why the C’s are not yet out of this series.

“We’re not scared of Cleveland,” Thomas said after Thursday’s practice. “They’re not the Monstars. They’re not on Space Jam.”

But as the Celtics were unable to find the bottle of Michael’s Secret Stuff that helped propel the Tune Squad to a victory over the Monstars in Space Jam, the Cavs cruised to a wire-to-wire victory aided by the C’s repeated self-inflicted wounds in the first half. 

In dire need to protect home court come Game 2 to avoid going back to Cleveland down 0-2 in this round three showdown, Thomas knows that the Celtics will need to get back to their strong defensive structure to give themselves a chance.

“We’ve just got to be more in tune as a group,” Thomas said of the defensive adjustments necessary for Game 2. “Like we can’t leave anybody on islands. We’ve got to let those guys see five guys in held position. I think if we do that — the clips were showing that where we did that, we played good defense that possession, we got stops, but when we left guys on islands and by themselves and not talking and communicating, that’s when they went on their run and opened the game up.

“We can’t panic. It’s only one game. It’s one game. They took care of business, and we’ve just got to take care of business Game 2.”

Or maybe Bill Murray can come help.

 

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

LeBron James scored 38 points in 41 minutes in Game 1. (Greg M.</p>
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LeBron James and the Cavaliers were not about add to the Celtics’ fairytale week.

May 17, 2017; Boston, MA, USA;  Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the first quarter in game one of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James drives against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown during the first quarter in game one of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper-USA Today Sports)

LeBron James and the Cavaliers were not about add to the Celtics’ fairytale week.

In a display becoming of a defending champion, the Cavaliers, coming off a nine-day hiatus, came to Boston and put a stranglehold on the team that was just 48 hours removed from an electrifying and draining seven-game victory over the Washington Wizards and a day from winning the NBA Draft lottery for the first time in franchise history.

James scored 23 of his 38 points in the first half while Kevin Love added 32 points as the Cavaliers routed the Celtics, 117-104, in Game 1 of the Eastern finals Wednesday night at TD Garden. Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley finished with 21 apiece to lead the Celtics, who will try somehow to regroup for Game 2 Friday night at the Garden before the series shifts to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4 Sunday and Tuesday. 

The win was Cleveland’s 12th straight in the postseason, dating back to their comeback against the Warriors in the 2016 Finals. They are a perfect 9-0 in the playoffs while the Warriors are one better at 10-0 this postseason. 

The game started out as the Celtics worst nightmare. 

The bigger, stronger Cavaliers made seven of their first 13 shots. The Celtics, on the other hand, missed 11 of their first 14 shots. Most concerning early was Boston’s inability to score when not defended. The Celtics were just 2-for-10 on uncontested shots. 

The Cavs raced to leads of 22-9 and 26-13. The Cavaliers also dominated the glass, hauling in 15 rebounds to Boston’s 4. 

And then there was James. The superstar made seven of eight shots and posted exactly half of his team’s 30 points in the opening quarter as Cleveland took a 30-15 lead. 

Things only got worse in the second quarter. After missing all five 3-point shots in the opening 12 minutes, the Celtics missed 9-of-11 from deep in the second. Throw eight first-half turnovers into the mix – leading to 12 Cleveland points – and you have an unmitigated disaster. 

Two Kevin Love free throws with three minutes left in the second quarter stretched Cleveland’s lead to 53-29. James banked in a turnaround fallaway with 1:45 left to build Cleveland’s lead to 57-31. James’ layup with four seconds left gave him 23 points for the half on 10-of-15 shooting and put the Cavaliers ahead, 61-36. 

(For a full boxscore, click here).

The only highlight was a pull-up three from 27 feet by Thomas at the buzzer, closing the Celtics to within 22 at the break. 

Kelly Olynyk started the second half in place of Amir Johnson and it didn’t make much of a difference. Love was fouled shooting a three and hit a three on the next possession before Tristan Thompson cut to the basket for a uncontested dunk on a perfect pass from James. It was 73-45. 

When Love wasn’t hitting open threes and James wasn’t driving the lane, Celtic-killer Tristan Thompson was again abusing the Celtics in the paint and on the glass. The big man hit his first seven shots from the floor while grabbing eight rebounds, including six on the offensive glass in the first three quarters. 

The Celtics did try to get inside the head of Thompson late in the third. Marcus Smart got in Thompson’s face after a taking a shove to the back. LeBron was quick to push Thompson away. Moments later, it was Isaiah Thomas’ turn, barking at Thompson before being separated. Thompson finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. 

A 10-1 Celtics run cut the lead down to 19, 89-70. Kevin Love hit a three before Al Horford responded in kind. Marcus Smart’s put-back dunk brought the Garden crowd to its feet and sent the crowd into a frenzy. Boston trailed 92-75 heading into the final quarter. 

After scoring just two points in the third quarter, James helped put the game away with 13 in the fourth. 

The Celtics cut it to 16, 110-94, with 3:45 left but missed a pair of open looks on 3-pointers. James hit one of two free throws with 3:23 remaining to push the lead back to 17, 111-94. 

With the reserves in, the Celtics cut it to 11, 111-100 on a Gerald Green three before Iman Shumpert converted a baseline triple to put the game safely away. 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia