The Misleading and Notable 3-Point Story from Game 1

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Boston Celtics aren’t letting the score of Game 1 against Cleveland fool them. They know their 25-point win was not indicative of how these two teams stack up.

There was a simple reason as to why Boston clobbered Cleveland by a count of 108-83: the C’s made shots, and the Cavs did not. Those facts were as clear as day for both teams as they watched the game on film.

“They missed some shots that they'll hit normally,” Brad Stevens said Monday afternoon.

His counterpart, Tyronn Lue, said, “Looking at the tape, especially in the first quarter, we got a lot of good looks that we liked, a lot of open shots we just didn't make.”

The numbers support each coach’s statement.

The official statistics on NBA.com/stats say that Cleveland shot 3-for-16 on “wide-open” 3-pointers, which are classified as shots taken with no defender within six feet. After reviewing the film, Celtics.com classifies only nine of those 3s as “wide-open,” which were shots that were not challenged by the defense, like this:

Still, Cleveland shot just 1-for-9 on “wide-open” attempts, and that’s a staggeringly low number for a team that just 41.1 percent from long range during a four-game sweep of the Toronto Raptors.

To make matters even worse for Cleveland, the Cavs misfired on all five of their “open” shots, as determined by Celtics.com as an attempt that was unaffected by a defender who was in the general vicinity, like this:

Total it all up, and Cleveland shot 1-for-14 on “wide-open” and “open” 3-pointers, a number that neither team expects the Cavs to duplicate during Tuesday’s Game 2. The Celtics know that they must be better defensively, or they're going to be burned.

"We had a few rotations where we were a little bit indecisive, and we've got to clean those up," said Stevens. "We've got to be more decisive. We've got to be better."

Even if Boston is more decisive, the Cavs will get some open looks, and as Kevin Love said, they've "just got to keep shooting them when they're there." They’re going to be there, because LeBron James will create them, either for himself or for his teammates.

James attempted five 3s during Game 1, missing all five. Three of those five were wide-open. James is likely to make some of his 3-point attempts moving forward, but of even greater concern are the attempts that he creates for his teammates.

Boston switched on nearly every pick-and-roll of which James was involved, and that oftentimes led to mismatches against undersized players like Terry Rozier or Jayson Tatum. The C’s then sent double-teams to assist those players, and James oftentimes read the defense perfectly.

James created five 3-point looks for his teammates during Game 1, four of which were for Kyle Korver, who is an all-time great from long distance. Cleveland converted on two of those five attempts.

Ten of Cleveland’s 26 3-pointers either came off of the hands or James or were attempted following a pass by James. The Cavs converted on just one of those 10 attempts.

All in all, Cleveland earned only 12 points from beyond the 3-point arc, while Boston tallied 33 points from long range. That’s a 21-point difference, during a 25-point win by the C’s, andn such a difference is unlikely to exist during Game 2 and beyond.

Boston knows that. Cleveland knows that. As such, reading into Sunday’s score would be a mistake.