Prior to Game 1 of the 2018 NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals, Marcus Morris felt that besides Kawhi Leonard, he could guard LeBron James the best. Challenge accepted as Morris would hold James to 2-for-6 shooting and five points when guarding James. (Per ESPN Stats & Info)
James would overall finish with 15 points on 5-for-16 shooting, 9 assists, and seven turnovers. Still, Morris credits a team effort. “It’s a team effort,” Morris said after posting 21 points and 10 rebounds. This would be his first playoff double-double.
The Celtics didn’t just rely on Morris. It was a rotation of defenders that stood their ground against the 15-year veteran. Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes, and Marcus Smart took a stance against James whenever they needed to. As I mentioned in my series preview, there will be an off game from James and Game 1 certainly was proof. The Celtics have the luxury of avoiding the double team on James consistently so that they can focus on covering the rest of the four Cavaliers on the floor.
The seven turnovers from James was not the highest of the 2018 Playoffs. In Game 1 of the Semifinals matchup against the Toronto Raptors, James had eight turnovers in the come from behind win. The Cavaliers as a unit shot a miserable 4-for-26 (15-percent) from the three-point line.
Asked if he was concerned after Game 1 James responded by saying, “I have zero level of concern at this stage”. His confidence remains intact even after the 108-83 loss and 36-percent shooting from the field as a team. Kevin Love led all Cavaliers players in scoring with 17 points and contributed 8 rebounds.
The Celtics will prepare for a tougher game on Tuesday for Game 2. “I think we’re very alert to the fact that we’ll get a heavyweight punch on Tuesday night”, said Brad Stevens after his team’s victory.
Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday night at 8:30 PM EST. The game will be televised on ESPN right after the NBA’s Draft Lottery show.