Boston, MA — After sweeping the Raptors in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last week, Cleveland rolled into TD Gardens on Sunday for Game one against the Boston Celtics with all the confidence in the world.
But at the end of the 108-83 game, that cocky Cavs confidence was gone. Little did they know, the Cavs’ biggest fear was waiting within those 94 feet of hardwood: the three-headed beast of the Morris-Horford-Brown trio.
Combining for 64 points — Jaylen Brown with 23, Marcus Morris with 21, and Al Horford with 20 points — the Cavs had no answer to the scoring prowess of the Celtics big three. The C’s starting-five outscored the Cavs’ big five 88-46 including 16 points from Jayson Tatum and eight points from Terry Rozier.
The last time three Celtic starters scored over 20 points in an Eastern Conference Final was back in 2012 with Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
“I think it was our energy defensively,” said Horford, on the starting-fives impressive start to the game. “I feel like we really fed a lot off our crowd. And then on offense, we were taking good shots, we were really moving the ball, and really taking really good looks… we were knocking them down.”
Horford was the X-factor in Game one; traditionally struggling against the Cavs, his inside presence was felt throughout the game (especially with Tristan Thompson playing limited minutes). In addition to his 20 points, he also pulled down four rebounds and dished out six assists.
On Sunday night in Game one, the Celtics opened it up with a 29-point lead in the first half and never looked back — deflating Lebron (who scored a playoff-low 15 points) and the Cavs confidence moving forward in the game.
Cleveland had a 26-point hole to dig out at beginning the third quarter, and after both teams started slowly offensively, the Cavs put together a 12-6 run and closed the deficit to 20 points, with under seven minutes left to go. Although the Cavs won the third quarter in terms of scoring, they lost the other three quarters miserably.
But ultimately that push wouldn’t be enough to overtake the strongest starting-five performance fans have seen from the C’s all season.
Game two will take place in Boston on Tuesday.
“I think we’re very alert to the fact that we’ll get a heavyweight punch on Tuesday night,” said Brad Stevens, Celtics head coach. “It’s another great challenge, another great opportunity to experience something for this team.”