Game 2 Preview: Celtics at Cavaliers
LeBron James called it nerves and Kevin Love said it was anxiousness, but whatever affected the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first 14 minutes of their playoff opener isn't something they plan to repeat.
What James does seem intent on doing again is making sure Love is a big part of the offense.
The Cavaliers will try to make sure their performance from the final three quarters provided a blueprint for a better beginning in Tuesday night's Game 2 against the Boston Celtics.
Boston shot 57.1 percent in the first quarter Sunday and pushed its four-point lead to eight early in the second quarter before Cleveland settled itself in the first playoff game at Quicken Loans Arena in nearly five years.
The Cavaliers outscored the Celtics 53-25 over the next 18 minutes en route to their 113-100 win, with Love scoring 14 of his 19 in that stretch after failing to hit the rim on four of his first five shots.
"It's very important that Kev stays involved," James said. "For our ultimate goal, Kevin has to be in the rhythm or at least touching the ball and feel like he's a part of what we're doing, which he is.
"Even with Kev's shot not falling early, I felt like just the rhythm he was in, the aggressive mode he was in will pay off for us later."
Love scored more than 40 percent of his points and took more than 38 percent of his field-goal attempts in the first quarter during the regular season, but did all of his damage after the opening 12 minutes Sunday.
Fellow playoff rookie Kyrie Irving said he was glad to have Game 1 out of the way, but he certainly didn't look like he was bothered by the spotlight. Irving had 20 of his 30 points - and all five of his 3-pointers - in the first half. In the 30 minutes he, Love and James were on the floor, Cleveland put up a 127.2 offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) while holding Boston to 89.9.
"We are the Big 3," said Irving, who joined James as the only Cavaliers to score 30 in their playoff debuts. "We have really great players on this team, but we set the tone."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was reintroduced to that notion after Irving sat out both games against Boston earlier this month while James and Love played sparingly.
"They make you pick your poison," he said. "We have to pay attention to LeBron. We have to pay attention to Love and Irving. Your margin is greatly decreased when you're playing a team of this caliber. "You just have to be great on both ends the whole time. All 48 minutes."
The Celtics need to do better on the glass in Game 2 after getting outrebounded 46-34 while letting the Cavs grab 15 of their own misses. Only Evan Turner (seven) had more than five boards, though he was a minus-18 overall in his 34 minutes while often being hounded by James.
Isaiah Thomas was productive off the bench with 22 points and 10 assists, helping make up for a starting backcourt that only totaled 17 points. Avery Bradley was 3 for 10 from the field while he and Marcus Smart spent much of their energy trying to stay in front of Irving.
"We're still confident," Thomas said. "Coach said we did a lot of really great things and we did some bad things. They kind of evened out, and that's why we ended up losing the game. So we're still confident. "Guys are ready for Game 2, knowing that good or bad you've got to have a short memory."
The Cavs swept the first two home games in their last four first-round series before James left for Miami.