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Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: Postgame Grades and Analysis

John Dorn@johnsdornCorrespondent IIIApril 19, 2015

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving celebrates after making a 3-point shot at the buzzer to end the second quarter of a first round NBA playoff basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday, April 19, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Mark Duncan/Associated Press

They didn't play a bad game by any means, but the Boston Celtics are just overmatched at every position in their first-round series with the championship-hopeful Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston shot 47 percent and had six players score in double-digits, but Cleveland took Game 1, 113-100. 

The C's got out to an early eight-point lead in the first half, but it wasn't long before the Cavs recovered, leading by 20 shortly after halftime. Boston managed to claw back in the final minutes, cutting it back to single-digits for a time, but the Cavs are just too talented to drop an important Game 1 at home to a sub-.500 team. 

Game Grades at a Glance
Boston CelticsGrade
Marcus SmartB-
Isaiah ThomasA-
Evan TurnerB
Kelly OlynykC+
Rest of TeamB-
Cleveland CavaliersGrade
Kyrie IrvingA
J.R SmithB-
LeBron JamesA-
Kevin LoveB
Rest of TeamB
Bleacher Report

Boston Celtics

Marcus Smart: B-

In Marcus Smart's first playoff contest, the rookie tallied 10 points on six shots over his 26 minutes. He was active on the defensive end, coming away with a steal, though Kyrie Irving was far too hot to contain. 

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He was a bit sloppy with the ball, making a few dangerous passes and kicking it out of bounds for a turnover in the second half. The 21-year-old wasn't flashy, but he was solid as a starter on this young Celtics team.

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

Isaiah Thomas: B+

Boston led by as many as eight points in the first half, and Isaiah Thomas was a primary reason. He racked up 12 points and five rebounds before the halftime buzzer, ending with 22 points, 10 assists and five boards in his playoff debut. 

Those 10 assists off the bench led Boston. Officials seemed to strip Thomas of two points when LeBron James swatted away a floater that seemed to be on its way down into the basket, but no goaltend was called. He did score on the ensuing possession, though. 

Even when he wasn't heavily involved in the offense firsthand, Thomas initiated things while he was on the floor and garnered plenty of Cavalier attention. The Celtics may not be destined for much playoff success this season, but Thomas has proved that he can be a primary offensive option for a good team.

 

Evan Turner: B

He didn't shoot particularly well, but Evan Turner did a little bit of everything for Boston in Game 1. He finished with 12 points, seven boards, five assists and a steal over his 34 minutes. 

He only made four of his 12 attempts, but he was one of the players tabbed to guard LeBron James and was able to force James into a few rushed decisions. His game is rarely pretty, but Turner's versatility is important for this inexperienced Boston crew.

Boston Celtics @celtics

Stevens: "It was a game where offensively we were good in the first half, defensively good in the 2nd, but we never put it together."

 

Kelly Olynyk: C+

Kelly Olynyk got off to a hot start for Boston, opening up with 10 points in the first period of play, but he ended with just 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including a pair of triples in 18 minutes.

He provided some sturdy defense under the rim, stopping a couple of LeBron James drives with verticality and altering a few shots. Offensively, he flushed a big-time slam dunk while Boston was building an early lead and was active with the ball under the rim on putbacks.

 

Rest of Team: B-

Jay King @ByJayKing

Crowder: "They have holes in their defense and we have to expose them."

Six Celtics reached double-figure scoring, including Brandon Bass and Jae Crowder with 10 apiece. Jared Sullinger had four points over his 13 minutes, and Jonas Jerebko logged seven points. Tyler Zeller, who started at center, went for six points and two boards in 15 minutes. 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving: A

In his first career postseason game, Kyrie Irving didn't disappoint. Tallying 20 points before the halftime buzzer, the point guard wrapped up with 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting.

He was able to create not only for himself, but for teammates with drives to the rim. A number of kickouts to three-point shooters off the dribble resulted in open looks. He was extremely effective shooting the ball, sinking eight of his first 12, 50 percent overall and 5-of-9 from three-point range. 

It goes without saying that Cleveland needs Irving to perform if it hopes to compete for a title. But if he can keep up this level of play, it's hard not to label the Cavs championship favorites. 

Kath @kathlovestennis

Blatt on Kyrie: "He is a guy who has confidence in his abilities...has great skills, defense, & his offensive skill-set is well-known. #nba

 

J.R. Smith: B-

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

He started off slow from the field, but J.R. Smith was able to help Cleveland's cause by knocking down a few open threes. He shot 3-of-9 overall for nine points.

Aside from his shooting line, Smith put in consistent work on the boards, coming up with four rebounds. His effort on the defensive end was suspect in the second half, as he was whistled for his third and fourth fouls early in the third quarter, leveling Kelly Olynyk running through a screen for his fourth foul—which came seconds after a call he took exception to.

It wasn't enough to hurt the Cavaliers on the scoreboard, but the team will need more from Smith in later rounds.

 

LeBron James: A-

In a relatively modest performance Sunday, LeBron James shot it just 18 times to Irving's 21. He sank eight of them, going for 20 points, seven assists and six boards. 

Joe Vardon @joevardon

Stevens: I thought we did as good of a job on LeBron as you could do

Those seven assists led the team. He was on the receiving end of a long-range Kevin Love outlet pass in the first half, which he finished with a slam when the score was tight. He faced tough defensive assignments in Jae Crowder and Evan Turner, and a strong rim presence in Kelly Olynyk. But he still managed to shoot 44 percent, making one of Cleveland's 13 threes.

He was active on the defensive end early, blocking a shot and jumping a few passing lanes while Boston was attempting to build on an early lead. He appeared to bang his knee in the third quarter going to the rim, but stayed in the game to finish the quarter.

 

Kevin Love: B

His playoff debut didn't go as smoothly as Kyrie Irving's, but Kevin Love recovered from a rough first half to put together a solid outing in Game 1. He shot just 2-of-11 to start out, but was perfect on three attempts in the second half, securing a double-double early in the third quarter. His final line was 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

As he's often seemed this season, Love looked uncomfortable early, perhaps forcing shots a bit and struggling with his jumper. Cleveland began to feature him a bit more as the game went on, giving Love a few looks on the block and boosting his confidence. He was active on the offensive glass, grabbing three boards on that end.

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

It's fair to chalk up Love's first-half struggles to postseason debut jitters, but if he's that ineffective for long spurts against better teams, Cleveland will need to work much harder to come away with playoff victories.

 

Rest of Team: B

Iman Shumpert finished with seven over his 32 minutes, making a three but bricking two attempts off the backboard. Shawn Marion entered in the third and immediately came away with two steals, initiating a sequence that ended with a James Jones buzzer-beating three to end the period. Jones made a pair of threes in the game. 

Tristan Thompson played well in his first playoff game, going for 12 points and six boards and finishing well near the rim. Timofey Mozgov had six points over his 22 minutes and grabbed eight boards.

 

Up Next

Leading the series 1-0, the Cavaliers host Boston again Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET at Quicken Loans Arena. Games 3 and 4 move over to Boston, taking place Thursday and Sunday. 

Boston is clearly overmatched in this series with a championship contender, but its determination in the first half of Game 1 show what can happen when the opponent is struggling and several Celtics role players are simultaneously clicking. The Cavs are incredibly tough at home, but it's feasible that the C's can potentially take a close game at the TD Garden.

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