If you’re an NBA fan who opted out of Friday night’s game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics, instead deciding to go to dinner, see a show, or do anything else because of a firmly-held belief this series would not be close, you are a smart person.
The Cavaliers beat the Celtics by 46 – they led by 41 at halftime, and the lead reached 50 at one point. In the second half, Cleveland turned off its “switch” and cruised to one of the easiest playoff wins ever.
If you played video games as a kid, stay with me. The Celtics were the little boy who gets NBA 2K for Christmas, plays against some of his friends (who also lack experience and skill) and has some success. Then, he decides to step up and start playing online. He plays against someone who has a bunch of lower-case and upper-case letters in his gamer tag and just gets demolished.
Unfortunately, the Celtics couldn’t rage quit last night’s game. If only they could have.
Here are some wacky numbers from Friday night.
– The Cavaliers’ five starters were a combined plus-165. LeBron James was a plus-46 in 33 minutes.
– Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and Avery Bradley, Boston’s three best players, were a combined minus-108(!!).
– Six Cavaliers hit multiple 3-pointers. While Cleveland may not start Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant together, its shooting depth is devastating. Let’s rank the Cavaliers’ best shooters in order:
Kyle Korver, Kyrie Irving, Channing Frye, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love, Deron Williams, Iman Shumpert, LeBron James, and Richard Jefferson. Yes, one could reasonably argue that the Cavaliers have nine shooters who are better than the Chicago Bulls’ best shooter… and the best shooters on other teams in the league.
– Thomas and Horford combined to go 4-for-15 from the field for 13 points. Thomas played only 18 minutes due to injury, but it’s tough to remember a team’s two best players throwing up such a dud in such an important game.
– On the flip side, Jaylen Brown and Gerald Green combined to go 9-for-15 for 31 points!
– They were still a collective minus-33 on the evening.
– Channing Frye was the baseball player who made two of the team’s three outs in the inning when the lineup nearly batted around the order twice. Frye, in a game his team won by 46, was somehow a minus-two in 14 minutes.
Last week, I wrote about what winning Game 7 against the Washington Wizards could mean for the Celtics. Nobody in their right mind thought they were going to beat the Cavaliers in a seven-game playoff series – frankly, to winning two games was optimistic. However, if they’re going to get embarrassed by the Cavs, as they have in the first two games, maybe it would have been better for Boston to have lost to Washington in a hard-fought Game 7.
If you’re Gordon Hayward, it’s not going to be easy to leave Utah. To do so, it would need to be for a franchise that is a Gordon Hayward away from being a championship contender.
Hayward is awesome, and Markelle Fultz likely will be too, but the Celtics and Cavaliers look like they’re playing different sports. At this point, a realistic goal for Boston shouldn’t even be to even the series up in Cleveland. Try to win one game. If they can’t do that, they need to make it look like they belong on the same floor as the Cavaliers.
Perhaps no team – ever – has had the week the Celtics just endured: Win a Game 7. Win the NBA Draft Lottery. Get absolutely clowned in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Almost any team not named the Cavaliers or Golden State Warriors would gladly trade places with the Celtics, but the hangover has officially hit, and there doesn’t appear to be an instant cure.