'Zero concern' as James says Cavs will bounce back

BOSTON • It is safe to say at this point that the Boston Celtics have benefited greatly from having home-court advantage in the play-offs.

Including their 108-83 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday, Boston are now 8-0 at TD Garden in the play-offs.

Despite being a younger and more inexperienced team than the other conference finalists, Boston have now outscored their opponents by 89 points in those eight games, with an average of more than 11 points per game.

LeBron James, however, believes there's still no cause for concern, regardless of the impressive nature with which Boston bludgeoned Cleveland into submission.

But the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, who is trying to reach his eighth consecutive NBA Finals, admits the Cavs, who were paced by 17 points from Kevin Love, need to make some changes before Game 2 in Boston today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time).

"I have zero level of concern at this stage," the forward said after an uncharacteristically off-key display that saw him finish with just 15 points while committing seven turnovers.

"You get better throughout. I've been down before. We have another opportunity to be better."

Jaylen Brown scored 23 points while Al Horford added 20 points for the Celtics, who inflicted the second-worst Game 1 play-off loss James has suffered.

Boston's Jayson Tatum is airborne as he drives past Kevin Love and LeBron James in the 108-83 victory over Cleveland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Boston's Jayson Tatum is airborne as he drives past Kevin Love and LeBron James in the 108-83 victory over Cleveland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

"We were great," Horford said after the Celtics shot 51.2 per cent from the floor and went 11-for-30 from three. "We came out with a lot of energy. We fed off the crowd and we kept it going throughout the game."

And Celtics coach Brad Stevens knows that it will take a continued team effort to limit James' influence in this series if Boston hope to advance to the Finals for the first time in eight years.

"We just have to make it hard for him," Stevens, who also praised Marcus Morris after he was promoted to the Celtics' starting line-up for the first time this post-season with specific instructions to shadow James, said. "Our guys played with good aggression."

Morris had 18 points and led a swarming defensive effort that shut down James, who had been averaging 34 points in the play-offs.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2018, with the headline ''Zero concern' as James says Cavs will bounce back'. Print Edition | Subscribe