While NBA fans may have been forced to stomach the “no one respects my team” claim from Boston fans, no one expected Boston to dominate Cleveland the way it did.
The Celtics secured another hard-fought victory Sunday afternoon against the Cavaliers, routing the defending Eastern Conference champions by 25 points. Boston was able to get every open look the team wanted while limiting LeBron James‘ Cavs to 83 points on 36 percent shooting.
There was one particular stat in the box score that stood out more than the rest. It was not Al Horford’s 20-point performance or Jayson Tatum‘s broken 20-point game streak. It also is not Boston’s pristine 8-0 at the TD Garden this postseason. Surprisingly, it was Marcus Morris’s textbook defense against LeBron.
In the 24 plays where Morris guarded LeBron, James had 5 points and only attempted six shots. Of course LeBron ended up with a near triple-double, but this game may have proved how mediocre Cleveland is when LeBron doesn’t have 40-point triple-doubles.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens is probably going to get the bulk of the credit (as always) for this win, but his players deserve credit for not backing down to the challenge. Cleveland absolutely demoralized the Raptors in their previous matchup, resulting in a sweep. The problem for Cleveland, though, is simple: Boston is not Toronto.
When asked why he and his teammates refused to shy away from the challenge of guarding LeBron, Morris provided a simple explanation.
“It’s a team effort, man, it’s not just me. Everybody played their part in guarding him. He’s obviously the best player in the game, and you need multiple guys and a team to guard him an entire game. I just think we did a great job of that.”
Almost everyone had a hand in guarding LeBron and forcing him to commit a playoff-high sever turnovers. He only had eight the entire Toronto series.
“I have zero level of concern at this stage,” the three-time NBA Champion explained to reporters after Game 1. He has definitely been in this position before, which should give this already poised Celtics team more motivation to execute during Game 2 like they did Sunday.
Game 2: Tuesday, May 15 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN.
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