Celtics 76, Cavs 72
--The Cavs shot 31 percent, LeBron James probably had the worst playoff game of his career, and they were playing on the floor of the No. 1 seed. The Cavs having a chance to tie the game with 20 seconds left is pretty remarkable. Then, the other side of the things is Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were as bad as LeBron on offense and the Celtics got away with 23 turnovers in a game they easily could've lost. So what do you call it? 1-0 Celtics. --If the Cavs play them this closely the rest of the series, they like their chances. If they lose all the close games, then they'll tip their cap. Regardless of whether the Cavs shoot 31 percent, which is an all-time low in the playoffs, or shoot 50 percent, they were ahead by a point with 1:30 to go and down two with 20 seconds to go with the ball in LeBron's hands. The Cavs' offense was terrible at times but their defense was excellent for much of the game, especially their rotations and backside protection. This is why Mike Brown preaches the style he does, the defense enabled them to stay in the game when they were awful. --LeBron shot 2-of-18 and so did Pierce and Allen combined. LeBron had 10 turnovers, so did Pierce and Allen combined. You can break it down and analyze it, but history says none of those guys will play like that again. Allen hadn't gone scoreless in 852 games over the last 11 years. So I guess call it a wash. This series is probably going to be ugly, both teams are good defensive teams. --The Celtics didn't do anything super special to LeBron. They stayed up on everyone, which made it tough for LeBron to find shooters a lot of times. They doubled him on pick-and-rolls, which happens like every game, and many times he found guys, he had nine assists. But he made a bunch of bad decisions, too with those 10 turnovers. Him getting those two offensive fouls in the third quarter caused him not to be very aggressive in the fourth for awhile, he took three or four bad jumpers. At the end of the game he was aggressive in getting to the basket he just couldn't finish. He got to the rim with nine seconds left and had a great chance to tie, he just missed it. That play summed up the night, but so did another play late. When he got trapped and traveled with the ball in front of the Celtics' bench. It was a breakdown, he didn't know what to do. Again, part good Celtics defense, part him not handling the game well. --A big moment in the game was when Mike Brown put Joe Smith in for Ben Wallace on offense with 50 seconds left. That made sense at the time, but it backfired when the Celtics didn't called timeout after Zydrunas Ilgauskas' tip in that tied the game. The Celtics went right to Kevin Garnett, who made a great move for the go ahead layup. Wallace played pretty good tonight, he made Garnett get most of his points shooting jumpers and that is something they'll live with. Maybe he couldn't have stopped that move, either. But you'd rather have Wallace in there than Smith at that point. Z could've come over to double, which was what they were doing with him, as soon as he saw him make his move but he didn't. --The Cavs specifically made defensive moves aimed at slowing Pierce and Allen and letting Rajon Rondo go. They are going to live with what he can do. In the first half, he killed them. In the second half, Sam Cassell did. The Cavs can't guard everyone with the way they play, so this is where they appear to have decided to take their chances. --A couple other things I noticed: During the preseason junk, Garnett does a throat slash thingy. Is that a menacing gesture? After not shaking hands with the Wizards during the last series, LeBron greeted all the Celtics before the opening tip. Doc Rivers acts like a catcher at times and signals plays to his point guards under his jacket so the Cavs can't see. There was smoke in the air for the first five minutes of the game. Was it the pregame fireworks or all the power KG and LeBron throw in the air?
Cavs: Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins
Officials Eddie F. Rush, Scott Foster, Michael Smith
--The Celtics are experts at blowing out people at home. They will come out with a lot of energy and try to build a big lead. The Cavs will have to try to absorb it and stay close. Their goal is to get it to the fourth quarter and try to win it in. --Huge key for the Cavs is how well West and Daniel Gibson handle the pressure, which the Celtics will bring on them heavy. Both have been inconsistent in handling it, though they were both pretty good after that bad Game 3 in D.C. --The Cavs have some matchup issues defensively, especially Ray Allen. I don't think Wally can stay with him, they run him through lots of screens and all over the court. You also would prefer not to have LeBron on Pierce for huge stretches. The Cavs are going to have to rely a lot on switches and help defense, especially when Allen is lurking on the backside. --The Cavs traded for Ben Wallace to deal with players like Garnett. Obviously he's not going to shut him down, but Ben needs to be effective in guarding him around the basket where he sets up in the post a lot. The Cavs don't want to have to bring double teams, they want Ben to be effective 1-on-1 even if KG scores, they want the scores to be hard.
Also, Nike started a new viral marketing campaign for LeBron. Touching but not nearly as cool as the Kobe viral spot with him jumping over that car.
Halftime -- Celtics 41, Cavs 37
--LeBron James has one basket, the Cavs are shooting 29 percent, they have three second chance points, they have not made a 3-pointer, they are on the road. And they are down by just four points. All in all, they have to be thrilled. They have stayed in the game by forcing turnovers (Boston has 12) and by getting to the foul line and making them. The Celtics are upset with the calls, but all in all other than a miss or two it has been pretty fair. --Whenever Gibson is on Rondo, the Celtics see a green light. From the Celtics perspective, Pierce has two points and Ray Allen has none yet they are still winning. Most of it is due to Rondo and his drives. The Cavs are willing to give up the mismatches because they are deploying their defenders elsewhere. --Garnett has 16 points and he's played well, but most of his shots have been jumpers either contested from the mid-range or long range. The Cavs will have to live with that. --Mike Brown has altered his rotation, putting Sasha Pavlovic in for Devin Brown. Sasha was back in midseason form, playing seven hollow minutes with a missed layup. I understand the need to kick the tires with him, but Devin Brown is a producer and a junk scorer and this has been a junk scoring game. --The Cavs have been very active in trying to swat at the ball as the Celtics come into the lane, as a result they have nine steals. This must be the result of a game plan tactic, they are not usually as aggressive. --Assume Pierce and Allen will start making shots in the second half, but the Cavs have to shot something respectable, like, say, 43 percent, to have a chance. The Celtics have done a good job of taking them out of their sets by staying so close to everyone, but there's also been oodles of missed open shots.
Stars Kevin Garnett, Celtics, 28 points, eight rebounds Sam Cassell, 13 points Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 22 points, 12 rebounds
Quotes Mike Brown on LeBron: "He one thing he tried to do in attacking the rim, he didn't get the call, especially down the stretch. Guys have nights like that, but it is unusual to see him have a night like that from the field. He very seldom has a game like this, but he will bounce back and play a terrific game in game 2." LeBron: "I missed a lot of shots that I can usually make. A few layups I know a can make, a few pullups I know I can make. That (late play) symbolized the night I had, those layups I've made my whole life, I put it right over the rim. That play right there was the type of night I was having. I'll watch the film, get a better grasp on the game and come back in Game 2 with a better approach. We still had a chance to win, they made one more play than we did. It's going to be like this almost every game."