Isaiah Thomas scored 17 points, but he missed 12 shots and went to the free-throw line only three times while playing 38 minutes for Boston Celtics in their capitulation to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Final opener on Wednesday. Thomas is one of several Boston players that will need to step up, as the series continues at the TD Garden on Friday night live on Kwesé Free Sports, Kwesé Sports 1 and the Kwesé App from 02:30 CAT.
The 5’9” point guard who averages 27.3 points per game in Celtics’ postseason wins, was even way below the 21.5 person per game he puts up in when Celtics lose. His 28.9ppg regular season average led Celtics; it therefore makes sense that Thomas needs to rediscover his shooting; the .368 percent he put up against Cavaliers is the fourth-worst in the 13 games he has played this postseason.
Kyrie Irving, the opposing point guard who was key to the Cavaliers victory in the NBA Finals last season, also had an off night. The 11 points he put up against the Celtics is his lowest this postseason. The previous low was the 13-point show in the First Round Game 3 win at Indiana. The face-off between Thomas and Irving will be one of the key matchups in Game 2, as both attempt to bounce back from the (relative) disappointment of Game 1.
Al Horford doesn’t always score big. His career average is 14.3ppg, and he is averaging 14.ppg at the Celtics. His biggest contributions comes from the boards where he leads the Celtics in rebounds. Despite Horford’s limited scoring, he averaged 17ppg in the eight wins Boston have recorded so far in these playoffs. His averages drop to 14ppg in the six games they have lost; against Cleveland, Horford managed only 11 points. Not only that, his personal fouls rose from the average 1.8 per game to 4 fouls.
With Horford in foul trouble, Tristan Thompson exploded for the Cavaliers. The Cleveland Center, who averages career figures of 9.4ppg and is averaging 8.1ppg this season, scored 20 points against Boston. That’s only the second time he has scored in double figures in the postseason. The Horford/Thompson matchup will be key in this game. Horford will need to find his composure, put points on the board for Boston, and limit Thompson, for the Celtics to have a chance.
Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley delivered 42 points for Boston in the humbling loss. Crowder was efficient on both ends of the floor, as he added 8 rebounds and 5 assists to his totals. Both will need to reproduce those numbers again. Crowder’s 21 is the highest since he scored 24 in Game 1 against Washington.
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The Cavaliers are almost guaranteed another big night from LeBron James. The 11-time All-NBA First Teamer has been in imperious form this postseason, averaging 28.9ppg. But he’s taken it to another level the past five games. ‘Bron obliterated Raptors with a series of 30 points-plus games, and is now averaging 36.4ppg over the last five games, following his 38 point display against Celtics. There is no matchup against LeBron that seems to favour Boston. That was obvious from the regular season meetings, which Cavaliers won 3-1. But to avoid being swept, Boston must find a way to slow down the LeBron express.
Then there is the bench. The Boston bench outscored the Cavaliers bench in every game of the regular season series. They continued the trend by again outscoring the Cavaliers bench 34-14 in Game 1. Is the salvation for the Celtics to be found in their bench? Not necessarily. The main Cleveland weapon is LeBron, everything flows from him.
But the Boston bench must deliver yet again, as Boston face a crucial Game 2 that feels like an elimination contest.