CLEVELAND -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens and his wife, Tracy, were having your typical Saturday date night -- you know, dinner and watching a playoff meeting between the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls -- when Stevens pointed out how he'd be leery if the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers were in a similar spot late in the first quarter of Sunday's Game 1.
"I was watching the Bucks-Bulls and it was 22-22 with four minutes left in the first quarter," explained Stevens. "My wife and I are sitting there having dinner and I said, 'If it's 22-22 at the four-minute mark of the first [during Sunday's Game 1], we're in trouble.' And it was 22-22 with 3:19. I guess we weren't quite at the four-minute mark, but you knew we had not done a very good job up to that point of making it as difficult as we needed to for them to score."
Stevens said he thought his team's defense improved in the second half, but Boston was never as crisp as it needed to be. The Celtics allowed the Cavaliers to post an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 119.6 -- or roughly 17 points above Boston's regular-season average -- as Cleveland emerged with a 113-100 triumph in Game 1 of a best-of-seven first-round series at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Celtics did a decent job limiting LeBron James and Kevin Love, holding the duo to 39 points on 13-of-32 shooting -- a modest output for that tandem. But Kyrie Irving scored 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting over 40:32 and connected on five 3-pointers as the Cavaliers shot 41.9 percent overall beyond the arc.
The Celtics even made things difficult on Irving at times, but he simply made some tough shots. As ESPN Stats & Information pointed out, all 13 of Irving's jump shots were contested, with Irving shooting 7-of-13 (53.9 percent) on those attempts. Only 29 percent of Irving's jumpers were contested during the regular season, with him shooting a mere 41.7 percent in those situations.
Said Isaiah Thomas of Irving, "First off, he's a talented basketball player. He's one of the guys that takes tough shots and makes tough shots. There were times we were right in his face at the end of the shot clock, and he buried a 3. That's just his game. We've got to somehow try to take those away from him and make him into a playmaker, not so much of a scorer. He's a hell of a player, and we've got to slow him down to win this series."
Memorable postseason debut for Thomas
Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas joined some elite company after posting 22 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds during his playoff debut on Sunday night.
Thomas became only the third player in NBA history to register 20 or more points, 10 or more assists, and 5 or more rebounds in his playoff debut. He joined an exclusive club that includes Oscar Robertson and James.
Thomas finished 6-of-14 shooting, but did struggle near the basket (completing just 2-of-7 shots near the rim while dealing with traffic provided by Timofey Mozgov and Cleveland's bigs). Thomas got to the line for eight free throws (he made all of them) and was Boston's most consistent offensive presence. Only five turnovers diminished his stat line (he finished plus-5 in plus/minus; Boston trailed by as much as 20 and lost by 13).
Crowder: Must expose Cavs' defense
The Celtics endured some painful offensive lulls on Sunday, but did score 100 points while shooting 46.8 percent from the floor overall (take away Avery Bradley's offensive struggles, and that was more like 50 percent from the floor).
The Celtics didn't shoot the 3-pointer well and struggled to score off the drive after a strong first quarter. And Jae Crowder was particularly blunt about needing to generate more offense.
"[The Cavaliers are] not the best defensive team," said Crowder. "They have holes in their defense and we have to expose that."
Boston owned an offensive rating of 104.5 -- fifth-best of the 16 playoff teams through the opening game of each first-round series. Alas, Boston's defensive rating (119.6) was nearly 12 points worse than the next closest team (Spurs, 107.7).
Birthday boy Olynyk has dunk party
Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk celebrated both his 24th birthday and his own playoff debut by scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting during Sunday's loss.
Olynyk started 4-for-4 with 10 first-quarter points, including a slam dunk on a strong drive at the basket. He started the second half at center for Boston, but was limited a bit by foul trouble and wasn't quite as aggressive after the fast start. He added two blocks, two rebounds, an assist and a steal over 18:27.
Said Stevens: "You could tell [Olynyk] was pretty locked in offensively early on. We need that. Hopefully, he can bottle that up."