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James, Cavaliers hammer Celts in series opener

The Sports Xchange

May 17. 2017 11:27PM
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert high-fives forward LeBron James during the first half in game one of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

BOSTON — So much for the layoff hurting the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The defending champions, playing their first game since May 7, put on a clinic, leading wire to wire and cruising to a 117-104 blowout of the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night.

Game 2 is Friday night at TD Garden before the series shifts to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4.

The Cavs toyed with the Celtics from the start, building a 26-point lead in the first half, expanding it to 28 in the third quarter before the Celtics cut it down to 17 at the end of the quarter. The Celtics rallied some and actually cut their deficit to 11 with the benches cleared in the final minutes.

LeBron James, looking advance to his seventh straight NBA Finals, led the Cavs with 38 points (15 in the fourth quarter), nine rebounds and seven assists. It was his seventh straight 30-point game. He came in averaging 34.4 points, 9 rebounds and 7.1 assists.

Kevin Love, who hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter, scored a career playoff-high 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, becoming the first Cavalier other than James with 30 points and 10 rebounds in a playoff game since Brad Daugherty in 1992. Tristan Thompson had 20 points (7-for-7 from the floor) and nine rebounds and Kyrie Irving 11 points and six assists.

At one point in the third quarter, the Cavs were 28 of 45 from the floor. They finished the game at 48.1 percent.

Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder led the Celtics with 21 points apiece while Isaiah Thomas, hounded all night, had 17 points and 10 assists. He was just 7 of 19 from the floor, 2 of 7 from 3-point range.

Thomas hit a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left in the first half, his team’s second trey in 16 first-half attempts.

The win was the Cavaliers’ 12th in a row in the playoffs (one shy of matching the NBA record, set by the 1988-89 Los Angeles Lakers), dating back to last year’s Finals, while the Celtics’ five-game home playoff winning streak was stopped.

Some third-quarter unpleasantness erupted between Thompson and Boston’s Marcus Smart, whose fiery play kept his team somewhat alive as his flying slam on a rebound with 2.8 seconds left in the third ignited the crowd. The pair was whistled for double fouls on one occasion and came together on other occasions.