LeBron James was unusually quiet in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics on Sunday and as a result, the Cleveland Cavaliers suffered a 108-83 loss. James finished with 15 points on 5-16 shooting, allowing Boston to secure a 1-0 series lead with the victory. History tells us James is due to issue an emphatic response, and two of our writers gathered to discuss what they think we’ll see from LeBron in Game 2. Our participants are:
Boyer: I’m expecting to see a firmer and much more assured LeBron James in Game 2. Boston did a respectable job of minimizing James’ impact in Game 1, but there’s no refuting that at times James seemed detached from the moment.
James recognizes the importance of coming out of Game 2 with a victory. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have been putting in work at the Boston Garden, well before the Cavaliers were ordered to arrive for morning shootaround.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) May 15, 2018
James hasn’t been down 0-2 in an Eastern Conference Finals since 2007 against the Detroit Pistons, back when Rihanna was tucked under her Umbrella telling us we’re gonna stick it out to the end. It’s been 10+ years!
James doesn’t have the luxury that the likes of James Harden, Kevin Durant, and other players that are paired with fellow superstars do. There is no one for James to share the heavy lifting with or to defer to when he’s in need of a quick repose.
Kyrie Irving, the guy James used to roll with, is parked on the Celtics’ bench, recovering from a knee infection that required surgery and ended his season.
Kevin Love has had some promising moments this postseason, but he’s proved to be unreliable as a consistent second scoring option that comes even close to the degree of Irving, and the rest of the Cavaliers’ cast of characters are reliant on James to get them going.
He’s expected to go all-out, full-throttle each and every night, and the result has been one of, if not the best individual postseason runs of his career. Game-winners, 40-points seemingly every night. It’s been truly amazing.
We should all expect James to resume his dominance in Game 2, and history echoes that sentiment in a piercing fashion.
In games following a playoff loss, James is 30-13 over his last eight postseasons. He averages 30.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists in those contests, and James has responded in resounding fashion to all three of his playoff losses this postseason, all of which came in the first round against the Indiana Pacers.
After dropping Game 1 against Indiana, James dropped 46 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists. He followed up a Game 3 defeat with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. And to close the series? James put up 45 points, 8 rebounds and seven assists in a deciding Game 7.
The Celtics are obviously stocked with homecourt, more capable LeBron defenders than Indiana and a sharper coaching mind in Brad Stevens, but all of these things will not coalesce into a second consecutive aloof performance from James in Game 2.
Allan: LeBron James is the last player you would expect to have the type of game he had in Game 1 vs. the Celtics. It may be an unpopular opinion, but the type of game he had was also a result of the performance of his peers. For the Cavaliers to have their best fighting chance in this series it’s going to come from the shooters surrounding James.
Players like J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, and Rodney Hood have to shoot better in order to open up the floor for James. The Celtics may be the smartest defensive team in the NBA. They know how to use switches to their advantage. You saw multiple times where it was entry passes into the post that gave Cleveland the toughest time. The Cavaliers had opportunities of mismatches with Kevin Love or LeBron being guarded by Terry Rozier, only to find Jason Tatum switching onto them and causing disruption.
Switching is a vital thing in the NBA, but the Celtics use it to their advantage with multiple switches in such a short time span. The Celtics did this time and time again, whether it was Tatum, Jaylen Brown, or Marcus Morris taking over before the ball could be delivered.
I expect a much faster and up-tempo LeBron James and Cavaliers tonight. The Cavaliers are averaging 93.4 possession per game in the postseason. While this worked against weaker defensive teams in Toronto and Indiana, Boston’s half-court defense has proved to be the best in the league or at least the postseason.
Another problem that we saw from the slow pace of Cleveland was that it directly correlated to their poor shooting. It was astounding to watch the number of shots that came near the end of the shot clock for Cleveland. Even though Cleveland should shoot better than 15% from three tonight, it’d be in their best interest to play up tempo more often. This type of play will get shooters going, creating more one on one spacing for LeBron.
Overall, I expect a much more fast-paced, aggressive LeBron. He won’t be looking to shoot the ball as much, rather taking it to the rim to create for himself and the shooters around him. LeBron and bounce back games are just another anomaly of his career, but it is such a normal occurrence that we really can’t expect anything less.