The opponents change, but the story stays the same. No Eastern Conference team can compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland has won its first nine games of these playoffs and 12 straight dating back to its comeback from down 3-1 against the Golden State Warriors in last year's NBA Finals. The streak is the longest in Cavaliers franchise history and for James, who once again looked unstoppable.
Playing on nine days' rest after the Cavs' sweep of the Toronto Raptors, the four-time MVP showed no signs of rust. He scored 15 first-quarter points as Cleveland built a double-digit lead it would never relinquish. He eventually finished with 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
You can just pick any of these reactions out of a hat that properly describe James' postseason run:
stevens trying to find a way to stop lebron right now is like when you go back to the fridge after a minute hoping something appeared2017-5-18 01:15:08
Tim Layden @SITimLayden
Now LeBron is just playing HORSE2017-5-18 01:26:20
Aaron Varner @AaronVarnerr
Celtics fans: "We have home court advantage." Lebron: "wE hAvE hOmE cOuRt AdVaNtAgE." https://t.co/czwy7fipwc2017-5-18 01:20:39
LeBron also did this to Kelly Olynyk, which is the type of beautiful disrespect that makes you want to chef-kiss your fingers:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
LeBron turned his back on Kelly Olynyk while he defended him 😂 https://t.co/OTckrxwmWg2017-5-18 01:26:17
James has scored at least 25 points and made at least half his shots in each of the Cavs' nine playoff games thus far. This is the eighth time in nine games James has played over 40 minutes in this postseason, but given the rest he had before Wednesday, he'll likely still be fresh for Friday's Game 2.
Love and Tristan Thompson spent most of the game bullying Boston inside, particularly in the first half. The Cavaliers pair each approached a double-double at the halftime break and were vital to a 28-14 rebounding margin.
Love finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds, while Thompson had 20 and nine. The Celtics attempted to defend Love with a guard at various points, which Conrad Kaczmarek noted went just as well as expected:
Conrad Kaczmarek @ConradKaz
And trying to guard multiple time all star Kevin Love with a point guard is disrespectful and he's responding appropriately.2017-5-18 01:10:19
Kyrie Irving also added 11 points but is still in the midst of a shooting funk. He missed all three of his three-point attempts and finished 4-of-11 overall. It's the seventh straight game Irving has made less than 45 percent of his shots.
The Celtics, meanwhile, were in two-way disarray for nearly the entire contest. They shot 47 percent from the floor but were 12-of-38 from beyond the arc, a rate that made it impossible to keep up with Cleveland dominating inside.
Avery Bradley, fresh off a strong series against the Washington Wizards, was solid again with 21 points. Isaiah Thomas (17 points), Jae Crowder (21 points), Al Horford (11 points), Gerald Green (11 points) and Jaylen Brown (10 points) were also in double figures. The Celtics did nearly all of their offensive damage in the second half, by which point Cleveland could coast on its massive first-half advantage.
Game 7 hero Kelly Olynyk descended back to earth hard Wednesday, finishing with two points on 1-of-6 shooting. Coupled with the whole LeBron embarrassment, it was a polar-opposite performance in nearly every facet.
The Celtics, like the Pacers and Raptors before them, are learning a tough lesson: There is a switch. The Cavs have flipped it and plan on toppling the Eastern Conference along the way.
With the Warriors up on the San Antonio Spurs 2-0 and Kawhi Leonard nursing an ankle injury, the seemingly inevitable now looks actually inevitable. Cavs-Warriors III is happening. It's a matter of how long it takes to get there at this point.