Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Slowing LeBron James is key No. 1

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Slowing LeBron James is key No. 1

BOSTON – Against the Washington Wizards, the Boston Celtics built a defensive wall of sorts against John Wall that eventually wore him down.

A similar mindset applies to defending Cleveland’s LeBron James. 

But as we have seen through the years, defending James – particularly in the playoffs – is a lot easier said than done. 

The Celtics will give it another go tonight in Game 2 of their best-of-seven playoff series against Cleveland, a series that Cleveland leads 1-0 following their 117-104 Game 1 win. 

In Game 1, James established himself from the outset, scoring 15 of his game-high 38 points in the first quarter. He also had nine rebounds and seven assists. 

And in their 117-104 Game 1 win, it was James leading the way with 15 of his game-high 38 points coming in the first quarter. 

“I was trying to use angles, see how my defender was playing me,” James said. “Just trying to counter if they try and take away one thing, having a counter move, things of that nature. I just try to be aggressive and make it work for our ball club.”

 Boston’s goal, much like Game 1, will be to limit as much as they can James’ ability to take over and dominate the game. 

“Listen, he’s the best player on the planet,” Boston’s Gerald Green told CSNNE.com. “It’s gonna take all 15 of us to play together, to defend him. Like I said, he’s the best player on the planet. He’s that good.”

“It has to be a five-man effort,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “Not one man can do that. You have to do a good job of showing it early. You can’t wait until he gets in the paint and try and build a wall. You have to do it early. It’ll be a challenge for us.”

After watching video of Game 1 with the team, it’s not all that surprising that Celtics head coach Brad Stevens found plenty of areas in which his team has left room for improvement prior to tonight’s game. 

Limiting James’ impact as a driver is on the list. 

Trying to cut down on the way he’s connecting with his teammates, yeah, that’s a concern as well. 

But as many teams will attest to, knowing what to do in limiting James and physically being able to do it, are two entirely different realities. 

“There are a lot of things that sound good in theory,” Stevens said. “We have to do our best fixing it up appropriately without overdoing it and make sure we try to do our best to keep him in front.”

And it will indeed take a collective team effort for the Celtics to compete let alone defeat the defending champions who came into the conference finals as overwhelming favorites.

“We're not scared of Cleveland,” Thomas said. “They're not the Monstars. They're not on Space Jam. They lace up their shoes just like us. They just happened to play better than us in Game 1, and we've just got to protect home court in Game 2 and get the win.”

PODCAST: Danny Ainge on Jayson Tatum, being aggressive in free-agency and hanging up the phone on people asking for Jaylen Brown

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PODCAST: Danny Ainge on Jayson Tatum, being aggressive in free-agency and hanging up the phone on people asking for Jaylen Brown

Listen to the exclusive interviews following the Celtics Draft press conference. Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely have an extended interview with President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge to discuss the selection of Tatum, upcoming free-agency, Jaylen Brown's name coming up in trade talks (he hangs up the phone) and more. Also, Tatum sits down with Kyle and Sherrod to talk about his journey to the NBA and playing for the Celtics.