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Wrap-Up – So much for postseason jitters.
The current Cavaliers are loaded with veterans who’ve seen it all in the postseason – including six guys who’ve won the whole enchilada. But there was some concern around how Cleveland’s core youngsters – Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson – would perform in their first foray under the bright lights of the NBA Playoffs.
All three answered that concern in emphatic fashion – keying Cleveland’s convincing 113-100 win over the Celtics on Sunday afternoon at The Q.
Kyrie Irving was completely unfazed by his playoff debut – netting 20 of his game-high 30 points before intermission. The three-time All-Star went 11-for-21 from the floor, canning his first five three-pointers – adding three boards, two assists a steal and blocked shot. Kyrie’s 30-point playoff debut was second only to LeBron’s 32-point effort in his coming-out party against Washington in 2006.
Kevin Love took a little longer to get going, hitting only two of his first 11 shots. But once he got into the flow, Love – like Irving – looked like he’d been a playoff performer his whole career. And after halftime, Love hit all three field goal attempts while continuing to bang the boards. And the man who led the Wine and Gold with 38 double-doubles on the season did it again on Sunday afternoon, finishing with 19 points and a game-high 12 rebounds – two boards less than Boston’s starting lineup combined.
Tristan Thompson, the league’s top-rebounding reserve, also settled back into his role after some early butterflies – finishing with 12 points, on 4-for-6 shooting, adding six boards and an assist.
For LeBron James, the postseason is nothing new – Sunday marked his franchise-record 72nd start as a Cavalier and 159th playoff game overall. And, naturally, James turned in another rock-solid performance, finishing with 20 points on 8-for-18 shooting, to go with seven assists, six boards, two steals and a blocked shot.
Aside from Tristan’s effort, the Cavaliers got good performances off the bench. Iman Shumpert did a solid job on Boston’s super-sub, Isaiah Thomas. And James Jones, who’s been johnny-on-the-spot all season, hit a pair of huge treys, one to settle the squad down late in the first quarter and one to regain momentum as the buzzer sounded to end the third.
Boston out-shot the Wine and Gold from the floor, but the Cavaliers were once again deadly from beyond the arc – drilling 13 treys in the contest. Cleveland also controlled the boards on both ends – out-rebounding the Celtics, 46-34 overall and 15-7 on the offensive glass.
Turning Point – The Cavaliers trailed through most of the first quarter and found themselves down seven, 38-31, early in the second. But as they have all season, the Wine and Gold used the three-pointer as the equalizer.
After falling behind by a touchdown, LeBron found Kyrie and J.R. Smith for back-to-back treys on Cleveland’s next two possessions and just like that, the Cavs were within one. Evan Turner’s jumper gave Boston a three-point lead, but Kevin Love tied the score with a bomb on Cleveland’s next possession.
LeBron rebounded Love’s next attempt and scored on a sweet turnaround bank-shot, giving Cleveland the 44-42 lead. The Cavs would eventually up their edge to nine points before halftime – and they didn’t look back the rest of the way.
By the Numbers – 7 … consecutive Cavalier wins when opening the playoffs at home – a mark dating back to 1998.
Quotable – LeBron James, on his squad maintaining focus in the postseason …
” For us, as a ballclub, we just have to just play the game. Not worrying about what’s going on, don’t worry about the refs. Either you like a call or you don’t like a call – that’s not what it’s about. It’s about our game plan and how we can get better each possession. (The Celtics) were making a lot of shots early on. We felt like some plays didn’t go our way but you have to maintain your game plan and go out and focus on the next possession.”
Up Next –Following Sunday afternoon’s 13-point win in Game 1, the Wine and Gold welcome Boston back to The Q on Tuesday night for Game 2 at 7 p.m. The series shifts to Boston for Game 3 on Thursday night at 7 p.m., with Game 4 slated for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. in Beantown. If necessary, Game 5 would be back in Cleveland next Tuesday, Game 6 in Boston next Thursday and – if things get really hairy and lead to a Game 7 – it’ll be played back at The Q on Saturday, May 2.