Posted on May 13, 2018, by Travis Pulver

The expectations were not high for the Boston Celtics entering the postseason. However, against the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, they proved that there was much more to the team than their two injured superstars. But could they handle a real challenge? Could the handle the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers?

If how Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals went Sunday afternoon is any indication, the answer is a resounding ‘yes!’

Via @SLAMonline

The Cavaliers started out with the upper hand and got out to an early 7-4 lead inside the first three minutes of the game. A layup and free throw by Marcus Morris tied the game up on the next possession—and Boston never looked back.

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Morris kicked off what ended up being a 17-0 run for the Celtics. It didn’t stop until LeBron James made a four-foot shot to make the score, 21-9, Celtics. By the time the first quarter came to an end, the Celtics had gotten out to an 18-point lead over the Cavs, 36-18.

It was the largest first-quarter deficit a James-led team has ever seen in the playoffs. That kind of disparity is going to happen when one team shoots 63.6 percent from the field and the other shoots 31.8.

The second quarter wasn’t much better for the Cavaliers. Cleveland continued to struggle offensively and put up just 17 points in the quarter. The Celtics slowed down a little but still put up 25-points making the halftime score 61-35, Boston.

If there is anything we know about a LeBron James-led team, it’s that they are never out of a game until he is out of the game. In the third quarter, it looked like there could be a comeback in the making.

This time it was the Celtics who struggled from the floor making just 7 of 19 shots. James put up eight for Cleveland, and Kevin Love tacked on another nine. The Cavs were not out of the woods when the third quarter came to a close. But it didn’t look nearly as impossible with the deficit down to 14-points, 78-64.

A quick 7-0 burst to start the fourth extended Boston’s lead back out to 21-points. Cleveland never really challenged again. When the deficit hit 28-points following an easy basket for Terry Rozier, Cavs head coach Ty Lue threw in the metaphorical towel and pulled James from the game.

The Celtics cruised the rest of the way to a 108-83 win and now hold a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Jaylen Brown led the way for the Celtics with 23 points followed by Marcus Morris with 21. Al Horford chipped in 20. As a team, they shot 51.2 percent from the floor and 36.7 percent from three-point range (11-30).

Kevin Love ended up leading all scorers or the Cavs with just 17 points followed by James with 15 points. Neither had a great day from the floor much like the team. Cleveland hit just 36 percent of its shots and hit only four of 26 three-pointers (15.4 percent).

Via @ESPNStatsInfo

As could be expected, James was not fazed by the loss while talking to reporters after the game: “I have zero level of concern at this stage. I didn’t go to college, so it’s not March Madness. You get better throughout the series. You see ways that you can get better throughout the series.”

“I got a good sense of how they played me today, and how I need to play going into Game 2.”

We wouldn’t expect LeBron James to be any less confident. However,  it is not hard to wonder if the grind is getting to him. He has always carried the load for his team. But he has been forced to do so more than ever this season.

After the series with the Indiana Pacers, James admitted to feeling burnt out and tired. He didn’t get much time off before the Conference Semifinals. Since both teams dispatched their Semifinals opponent fairly quick, he still hasn’t had time to rest.

Could it all have finally caught up with him?

We’ll get a chance to see when the Cavs face the Celtics in Game Two of the series. Tipoff will be at 8:30 PM ET Tuesday night.

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