C's Fears Come True as James, Irving Spark Hungry Cavs
CLEVELAND, Ohio – All of Boston’s fears came true Tuesday night in Cleveland.
The Celtics feared that their opponent, the Cavaliers, would be as hungry as ever for a win after dropping their previous two games.
They were right.
The Celtics feared that LeBron James, fresh off of being outdueled by James Harden during an overtime loss Sunday night, would be motivated to make a statement.
They were right again.
The Celtics feared that Kyrie Irving would be chomping at the bit to make plays after missing Sunday’s loss with a strained left shoulder.
They were right once more.
Brad Stevens admitted as much after the Cavs, led by James and Irving, blew the Celtics out by 31 points at Quicken Loans Arena.
“You knew that we were going to get their best shot because they were coming off of two losses,” Stevens said after commenting on how dominant James was during the game. “Kyrie was going to be antsy to play because he hadn’t played. We knew that going in.”
Yet that knowledge couldn't protect Boston from what followed the opening tip.
James and Irving set the tone right out of the gates. They were determined to make this night memorable for Cleveland, and forgettable for Boston.
Cleveland’s star duo combined to score 22 points during the first quarter, 12 by James and 10 by Irving. They alone outscored the entire Celtics team by six points during the frame.
The onslaught from these two stars continued over the next two periods, as they combined to score 23 more points over the next 24 minutes to pace a humming Cavs offense. Cleveland shot 28-of-45 from the field during the second and third quarters, good for 55.6 percent from the field.
Boston trailed by 42 points after three quarters. James had already tallied 27 points, while Irving added 18 of his own. Cleveland ran away with the win by scoring efficiently and shutting the C’s down at the other end.
“I think we just bought into what they wanted us to do, which is hold the ball and try to make a play ourselves,” said Isaiah Thomas. “And we’re not that good of a team to be able to do that, especially against a good team like Cleveland.”
A fired up Brad Stevens confirmed Thomas’ comments after the game. Stevens, who spoke to the media for only three minutes – less than half that of his typical time – was livid that his team deviated from the team basketball it had displayed over the past four games.
“I told them it wasn’t good enough,” Stevens said of his message to the players. “And it’s not OK to walk out of here thinking that that’s the best team and you have nights like this.
“We played individual basketball at both ends of the court all night, and individual basketball against these guys doesn’t work, because their individuals are the best in the game.”
That’s where it all comes full circle.
The Celtics played poorly, yes, but Cleveland made Boston look so disjointed.
The Cavaliers, and in particular James and Irving, were on a mission Tuesday night.
Sometimes you just run into a buzz saw.