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>
<div class=



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

Paul Pierce believes the Celtics should trade the No. 1 pick for a superstar. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Paul Pierce believes the Celtics should trade the No. 1 pick for a superstar. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

One night after taking credit for the Celtics landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Celtics legend Paul Pierce has already revealed what he believes the club should do with the pick. 

Speaking with ESPN on Wednesday, Pierce clearly believes it’s time for Danny Ainge to make another blockbuster deal. 

“You trade this pick, because [Markelle Fultz] cannot help the Celtics get over the top,” Pierce told The Jump. “The window is now.”

On the Celtics during those lean years where draft lottery eluded the franchise — the ultimate miss coming when the Celtics had the second-best chance at the No. 1 pick but ended up with No. 5 overall during the Kevin Durant/Greg Oden/Al Horford draft back in 2007 — Pierce noted the success of the club in the now, and how they’re just another piece or two away from a return to glory. 

“You’re a 50-win team, you’re the No. 1 seed. You have to build on this momentum,” said Pierce. “If you can acquire a Paul George, Jimmy Butler, or Gordon [Hayward] from Utah, you have to do it.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Al Horford is more than familiar with LeBron James. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Al Horford is more than familiar with LeBron James. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

LeBron James has been the one to eliminate Al Horford from the postseason in three of Horford’s nine career runs. The odds say that James and the Cavaliers will bounce Horford, now with the Celtics, out of contention for a fourth time by the end of the third round, too. 

But the opportunity to punch back is a reason why Horford opted to join the Celtics on a four-year, $113 million contract last July.

“One of the reasons why I signed here was just to be in this position,” Horford said on Tuesday. “I feel like with the group that we have, we can compete with anyone. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was just to beat the Cavs, but it just felt right to be here.”

In 12 career playoff games against James’ Cavs, Horford’s teams are 0-12, with Horford having played in all but one of those games (he missed Game 2 of their 2009 series because of an ankle sprain). It was Cleveland that ended Horford’s final run with the Hawks last spring as well, with a second-round sweep. 

Every team — both Horford’s Hawks and James’ Cavs, of course — were vastly different on a year-to-year basis, and with a different organization entirely this time around, Horford feels that things could be different. 

“I don’t regret anything, ‘cause I felt like yeah they beat me the last couple of years when I was with Atlanta, but with our teams, we felt like we gave them all we had, we just couldn’t get over the hump,” Horford recalled of his Hawks days. “This is a different circumstance for me with this group. I feel like with our group, I’m just excited to have this opportunity with this group of guys.

“[Tuesday] was a good, productive day. We came up with a good game plan we feel like. Looked at the film, getting our rest and just getting ready for [Game 1]. But I feel like we’re in a good place mentally as a group.”

Against a Cleveland team that not enters play as the reigning champs, but also beat them in three of four regular-season meetings and as a group that has yet to lose a game in the postseason, Horford knows the challenge in front of the underdog Celtics. 

“Everybody is always going to roll with the champ until somebody beats them, right?” Horford said. “That’s just the way it is.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to shy away from the opportunity in front of his team. 

“I’m excited to be in this position at this point of the year,” he admitted, “I wouldn’t say anxious, but I am excited.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson