Let’s go back to what Brad Stevens said about mental toughness Saturday.
“First of all, I think mental toughness, being able to move on to the next play, being able to do the next right thing that can grow within somebody, for sure,” the Celtics coach said. “If I look at myself as a 20-year-old player there’s no way I would have had the mental fortitude after 20 years of coaching. I think players get better at that all the time. I think it helps when you have great role models in that regard. But mental toughness in general isn’t being the most physical or just being able to make the big shot. It’s being able to do your job on the next play every single time. That’s hard to do. That consistency isn’t for everyone. And that’s why it’s the mark of really good players.”
It was not a mark of the best player in the NBA in Game 1.
LeBron James, suddently cast with a group that pales in comparison what the Cavaliers had been rolling out againt the Celtics in the postseason, flat-out wilted in what would end up being a 108-83 win for Stevens’ team in the Eastern Conference finals opener. It’s one thing to have bad games, which James certainly experienced. It’s another to trudge through it the way he did this time around. (For a complete recap, click here.)
There was the walking down the court after missed shots, letting the Celtics convert one of the litany of their easy buckets. And James could also be found complaining to the referees while the action drifted back up court, crossing halfcourt as the other four guys in maroon jerseys attempted to play defense.
And then there was the actual basketball playing.
James really almost never attempted to take over a game that was getting out of hand early on, passively offering up the ball or settling for a random fadeaway. From nine minutes left in the first quarter until the 2:30 mark, the Celtics outscored the visitors, 25-2, during which Cleveland managed just one field goal on 12 attempts. Meanwhile, the Celtics going 10-for-15 from the field. And this entire time, the best player on the planet did little to turn the tide on eitehr end of the floor.
By the time the first half was over, James had been saddled with a minus-26, the worst in a single half for his illustrious postseason career.
When it was all said and done, the guy so many were so worried about finished with just 15 points, a minus-32, no 3-pointers and seven turnovers. Sure, Marcus Morris did his thing against James defensively, as did whichever Celtics player switched out on him. (Marcus Smart picked James’ pocket once, while Jayson Tatum made him lose control a few times.) But that was part of the package.
James was simply the complete opposite of what Stevens described Saturday as being mentally tough.
As remarkable as James’ nonchalant ways were, the other guys on the Cavs didn’t exactly do anything to deflect the criticism of their leader. There was no Kyrie Irving to bail out LeBron this time, with Kevin Love coming the closest with a good-but-hardly-great, team-high 17 points.
And it should be noted how many Celtics did so much right. Morris found his offensive game (21 points), as did Jaylen Brown (22). The C’s moved the ball, took it right at the Cavs’ terrible defense and built their offense around lay-ups. And Aron Baynes made the kind of difference that should be noted, as well, using his length to contest more shots that the Cavs were probably used to.
It might change in a hurry, but, regardless, this one is going to be hard to forget. Players like James aren’t supposed to offer images like this. The Celtics are thankful he did.
Full article @ Celtics 108, Cavs 83: LeBron was a joke, the C’s were anything but
Source: GreenStreet Blog