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

Cavaliers star LeBron James appears to have a lot of respect for Celtics fans. 

When asked to predict the atmosphere inside T.D. Garden when Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals begins Wednesday, James said he thinks it will be raucous –– like it always is. 

LeBron James has nothing but love for Celtics fans. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

LeBron James has nothing but love for Celtics fans. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

Cavaliers star LeBron James appears to have a lot of respect for Celtics fans. 

When asked to predict the atmosphere inside T.D. Garden when Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals begins Wednesday, James said he thinks it will be raucous –– like it always is. 

“I don’t think Boston fans need any more pumping up,” James said, via ESPN. “They’re born with ‘pump,’ if that makes any sense.”

This will be the sixth time James takes on the Celtics in a playoff series. The last postseason contest he played at T.D. Garden was Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, when he put up 45 points to lead the Heat to a blowout victory. In the waning moments of the fourth quarter, Celtics fans were heard cheering their team on

There have been a couple of memorable interactions between James and the Garden faithful in recent years. In 2015, he gave his sneakers to a special needs high school student after the fan was honored at halftime. 

Never afraid to talk about social issues, James also spoke kindly of Boston in the aftermath of the Adam Jones incident earlier this month. He said he’s never heard a racist taunt when playing in the city.  

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer

LeBron James has nothing but love for Celtics fans. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

LeBron James has nothing but love for Celtics fans. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

Cavaliers star LeBron James appears to have a lot of respect for Celtics fans. 

When asked to predict the atmosphere inside T.D. Garden when Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals begins Wednesday, James said he thinks it will be raucous –– like it always is. 

“I don’t think Boston fans need any more pumping up,” James said, via ESPN. “They’re born with ‘pump,’ if that makes any sense.”

This will be the sixth time James takes on the Celtics in a playoff series. The last postseason contest he played at T.D. Garden was Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, when he put up 45 points to lead the Heat to a blowout victory. In the waning moments of the fourth quarter, Celtics fans were heard cheering their team on

There have been a couple of memorable interactions between James and the Garden faithful in recent years. In 2015, he gave his sneakers to a special needs high school student after the fan was honored at halftime. 

Never afraid to talk about social issues, James also spoke kindly of Boston in the aftermath of the Adam Jones incident earlier this month. He said he’s never heard a racist taunt when playing in the city.  

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer

The Vertical’s Chris Mannix joined Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Wednesday to discuss the NBA draft lottery and what the Celtics plan to do this summer. To hear the interview, go to the Ordway, Merloni & Fauria audio on demand page.

The Celtics appear to be in on Gordon Hayward. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics appear to be in on Gordon Hayward. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

The Vertical’s Chris Mannix joined Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Wednesday to discuss the NBA draft lottery and what the Celtics plan to do this summer. To hear the interview, go to the Ordway, Merloni & Fauria audio on demand page.

Mannix believes the Celtics will take Washington guard Markelle Fultz No. 1 overall, and then target signing Gordon Hayward, who played for Brad Stevens at Butler.

“Well, they can’t just go out there and extend all these offers to everyone that hits the free agent market, but they don’t intend to,” Mannix said. “They’ve got a pretty good idea of what they want to do this summer.

“Gordon Hayward is the guy. That’s who they are going to roll out the red carpet for and see if they can lure him away from Utah. They know the financial situation there. Gordon can make a lot more money staying with the Jazz, but they believe that the lure of Brad Stevens and the appeal of playing in the Eastern Conference and getting far, far away from the Golden State Warriors is going to be a luring to Gordon Hayward.”

Mannix also said the Celtics could be in on trading for the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler if the price has come down since the deadline and extending Isaiah Thomas is not a priority. He will be a free agent after next season.

“I don’t think it is a priority for Boston to extend Isaiah Thomas this summer,” he said. “I really don’t. He wants the money. He wants to be paid in that $20-25 million per season range. He thinks he’s done enough to earn it. He’s right, but I don’t see Boston making that a real priority here. I think their priority is to make a splash in free agency and I think they are going to sit down and sell this to Isaiah. They are going to tell him, ‘We want to pay you. We’re not afraid to pay you. We believe you’re worth $25 million a year, whatever it is that you think you are worth. We just can’t do it right now.’ You have to have cap flexibility to give a guy an extension. There has to be room under your cap to do that.

“Boston wants Hayward. They want to try and go out and trade for a Jimmy Butler if he turns out to be more available than he was at the deadline. I think giving Isaiah an extension is pretty far back on Boston’s list of priorities.”

Blog Author: 
WEEI

The Celtics seem likely to select Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick in next month’s draft and he could be the perfect Celtic.

Looking back on the former Washington point guard’s Twitter page, it shows in 2013 he called out LeBron James.

The tweet read: Shut up lebron. It was accompanied with a Vine where he commented on James’ hairline.

The Celtics seem likely to select Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick in next month’s draft and he could be the perfect Celtic.

Looking back on the former Washington point guard’s Twitter page, it shows in 2013 he called out LeBron James.

The tweet read: Shut up lebron. It was accompanied with a Vine where he commented on James’ hairline.

“Man, shut up, LeBron,” Fultz said. “You can’t even see your hairline, fool. You’re going bald in the next 24 hours. The next game, you’re going to be bald. Shut up.”

Blog Author: 
WEEI