LeBron James delivered 38 points and Kevin Love had a career playoff high 32 as defending champions the Cleveland Cavaliers opened their Eastern Conference final series with a blowout win on Wednesday.
The Cavaliers were coming off a 10-day break, but showed no signs of rust by going wire-to-wire to easily beat the Boston Celtics 117-104 at the Boston Garden arena.
“Starting the game, LeBron really controlled the tempo, really set the tone early,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “He’s playing at a high level right now, and that’s the reason we’re riding him so much.”
“Amazing, but he’s better than when I first got into the league,” Celtics fourth-year coach Brad Stevens said of James.
The Cavaliers dominated from the opening tipoff. They compiled a 26-point lead in the first half and expanding it to 28 in the third quarter before the Celtics cut it to 17 at the end of the quarter.
James, who is seeking to reach his seventh straight NBA finals, scored 15 in the fourth quarter en route to his seventh straight 30-point game. He also had nine rebounds and seven assists.
James said as well as the Cavaliers played, they can do even better.
“I don’t even think we played that great tonight,” James said. “We definitely didn’t shoot the ball as well as we’re capable of shooting it. I think the energy and the effort and mindset was where it needed to be starting on the road, especially in the Eastern Conference finals.”
Love grabbed 12 rebounds. Tristan Thompson had 20 points and nine rebounds, while Kyrie Irving tallied 11 points and six assists.
“Tonight was another one of those games where I made a couple plays to help us get a win, but it was definitely our two bigs [Love and Thompson who] set the tone,” James said. “They were phenomenal.”
Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder led the Celtics with 21 points apiece.
The Cavaliers kept Isaiah Thomas in check as he finished with just 17 points and 10 assists. He was just seven of 19 from the floor and two of seven from beyond the arc.
The win was the Cavaliers’ 12th in a row in the playoffs, one shy of matching the NBA record set by the 1988-1989 Los Angeles Lakers, dating back to last year’s finals.
Boston had their five-game home playoff winning streak snapped.
Some unpleasantness erupted in the third quarter between Thompson and Boston’s Marcus Smart. The pair were whistled for double fouls on one occasion and came together on other occasions.
Game 2 is today at the Garden before the series shifts to Cleveland for games 3 and 4.
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