Dribbles: LeBron keeps everyone calm and Kyrie goes wild
CLEVELAND -- Random dribbles from the Cavaliers' 113-100 win over the visiting Boston Celtics in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series:
1. First of all, welcome back, Cleveland. It's been half a decade since Quicken Loans Arena experienced this type of playoff vibe. And let me tell you, the joint was rocking from opening tip.
2. Yeah, it looked a little scary for the Cavs at first -- as the Celtics shot a sizzling 60 percent on 3-pointers in the first quarter and built a 38-31 lead.
3. That's when LeBron James told his teammates to remain calm and stay poised. He promised everything would be OK. Clearly, the King of Cavaliers Basketball was correct. Eventually, the Cavs would turn that deficit into a 20-point (and pretty doggone insurmountable) lead.
4. Mostly, the Cavs are just so much more talented than the opponent. The Celtics will play hard and they will play smart. In a few years, they will be an Eastern Beast. But this is not their time. They weren't expected to be much of a match, and they are not.
5. Anyway, back to James, who finished with 20 points. Cavs coach David Blatt said he felt James' early message was vital. The Cavs were in a hole, and sometimes, it takes a talk from a man such as James to set things straight, to build the team's confidence.
6. Anyone who saw how Kevin Love struggled early, and how James kept encouraging Love with pats on the shoulder and chest, saw James is indeed ready to play the dual role of champion and cheerleader.
7. It worked, as Love started just 2-for-11 shooting from the floor -- then turned it around to finish his first playoff game with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
8. Of course, the best of the bunch was Kyrie Irving. The Cavs point guard scored 30 points in his playoff debut -- just two short of the record held by James. Irving also scrambled around on defense, making life mostly miserable for rookie Marcus Smart and veteran Avery Bradley.
9. LeBron praised Irving and Love and said the Cavs will be even better going forward. "The first game is always a feel-out process. The Big Three are (doing) great. We're going to be hard to beat."
10. The Cavs improved to 24-0 when scoring 100 or more points at home. So maybe LeBron is on to something, huh?
11. Also, the starting lineup of James, Irving, Love, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov improved to 27-4 on the season. That's just remarkable, folks.
12. Nearly everyone in the locker room praised Love for not letting the wheels come completely off despite his early issues. Instead, he kept digging and scratching and clawing. The Cavs aren't worried in the least about his production. "I really liked the way Kevin was locked in the whole game," Blatt said. "He continued to play (despite the shooting issues)."
13. The Celtics can be a handful, particularly with little guard Isaiah Thomas, who finished with a team-high 22 points and game-high 10 assists. "We're still confident," Thomas said. "We did some great things and we did some bad things. But we're still confident."
14. Confidence is a very good thing. But it won't mean much in this series. The Cavs are just too talented and deep. I know. I'm really not telling you anything new here. But I thought the Celtics could make it interesting if they could catch the Cavs sort of going through the motions in the first game. The Cavs did sort of go through the motions early -- and it didn't matter.
15. Blatt on Irving: "He's a guy that believes in his abilities, and he just loves to play basketball. When the stage is big, he's happy to show what he can do."
16. Celtics coach Brad Stevens on the loss: "Learn from it and improve it. You don't want to overdo it. This is a long series."
17. Tristan Thompson was brilliant off the bench, scoring 12 points and collecting six boards. This too was Thompson's first playoff game. He provided yet more evidence the Cavs are simply too strong for the Celtics underneath the basket.