It's just one game. Those are the four words I used on Monday Night when the Celtics came in and man-handled the Cavaliers in Game 2 at The Q. Those were Mike Brown's words. While disheartening, it was only one game. What a difference 4 days can make.
Behind a Cavaliers-record, 21-1st Quarter points from LeBron James, the Cavaliers dismantled the Boston Celtics in their house Friday Night 124-95. The 29 point loss by Boston was their worst playoff loss in team history - and there is a lot of history for the Celtics.
While there was plenty of tension in Cleveland all week, you could tell the team, and many fans, were confident. While the team hadn't played well in the series to date, no team had yet to beat the Cavaliers in a game where the Wine and Gold played well. Hell, we had yet to see the Cavaliers play a complete game in the playoffs so far - until tonight.
Right from the start, the Cavaliers jumped on the Celtics and never looked back. Cleveland never trailed, won all 4 quarters, and played at a high level on both ends of the court for 48 minutes. Like always, it was LeBron setting the pace, scoring early and often. When LeBron is playing confident, when LeBron is attacking, the Cavaliers are confident and the Cavaliers attack. The Cavs scored 36 points in the 1st Quarter while attempting just 1 3-point shot. That explains just how efficient the Cavaliers were.
While LeBron's mentality was easy to predict, how the Cavaliers were going to slow down Rajon Rondo was a mystery. The choice was to put Anthony Parker on Rondo right from the beginning. The twist? Parker put full-court pressure on Rondo, slowing him down and forcing the Celtics into their offense later then they would like. That resulted in rushed shots, bad shots, and a ton of jumpshots. Boston scored just 17 points in the 1st Quarter and never recovered.
When asked about the switch, Mike Brown gave the credit to Parker, saying it was his idea. Smart move. Of course, the best laid plans rely on you hitting shots, and the Cavaliers did that, shooting just under 60% for the game.
While LeBron was the star, he wasn't the only Cavaliers to give an impressive performance. Antawn Jamison came to play as well, with a double-double(20 and 12) and Mo Williams was solid(12 points, 7 assists). Compare that to Rondo - 18 points, 8 assists - and you can see what Mo needs to do. He doesn't need to outscore Rondo. He doesn't need to be the distributor that Rondo can be. He needs to put up numbers that help cancel Rondo out. Tonight, Williams did that.
There are impressive stats all over the box score, but for me, a couple stick out. The Cavaliers got to the free throw line 34 times. They hit 31 of them. 91.2% That's the reason I get so miffed when the Cavaliers shoot 60% from the line in some games - it is a matter of focus.
The second stat - rebounds - is an area the Cavaliers usually dominate. Not Monday night, when the Celtics out-rebounded the Cavaliers. Tonight was a completely different story. Cleveland out-rebounded the Celtics 45-30. Just another chapter in the story of a blowout.
Focus for 48 minutes has been a problem at times for the Cavaliers. They have gotten sloppy at times with a big lead, giving much of it back at different times. Not tonight. The reason? The Cavaliers didn't settle. THey only attempted 12 threes in the game, many of those coming in the 4th quarter when the game was over and the Cavaliers were simply looking to get to the buzzer. Tonight the Cavaliers were focused. No MVP celebrations, no pre-game fun and games. A business trip to win 2 road games. The job is half done.
6 wins down, 10 to go.