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.”

Kelly Olynyk in Celtics starting lineup in Game 4

Kelly Olynyk in Celtics starting lineup in Game 4

CLEVELAND – Amir Johnson’s right shoulder injury has him still in a state of limbo, which is why the Boston Celtics will start Kelly Olynyk tonight in Game 4 of Boston’s best-of-seven series with Cleveland.

Boston cut Cleveland’s series lead to 2-1 following their 111-108 Game 3 win.

Olynyk appeared in 75 games this season with six starts.

As a starter, he averaged 10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

Olynyk said his focus tonight will be pretty simple.

“Just keep playing every possession like it’s the most important possession of the game,” Olynyk told CSNNE.com.

LeBron James hasn't always been dominant the game after a bad performance

bsb-lebron-james-05-23-17.jpg

LeBron James hasn't always been dominant the game after a bad performance

Conventional wisdom has been spreading almost from the moment Avery Bradley's shot (finally) dropped through the cylinder in the closing seconds Sunday night, and it goes something like this:

LeBron James was so bad in Game 3 that, determined to exact revenge, he's going to come out like a force of nature and obliterate the Celtics in Game 4.

Makes sense. But, you know, LeBron has had other playoff games in which he's scored fewer than 12 points. He's always been good the next time out -- certainly better than >12 points -- but nothing sweeping or historic:

And amazingly enough, his teams lost two of those three games.

So if you were thinking the Celtics' Game 3 triumph virtually guaranteed a Cavalier victory and a dominant LeBron James performance in Game 4 . . . well, maybe not.