CLEVELAND -- Besides their successful history and a spark-plug point guard in Isaiah Thomas, the Boston Celtics are known for their chippiness and physicality, both of which they put on display in a 117-104 Game 1 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But despite being on the receiving end of 26 fouls from the Celtics, the Cavaliers embraced the physicality and gladly knocked down 28 of their 35 free-throw attempts (80 percent) in front of the Boston faithful at TD Garden.
“I thought it was a good playoff game,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “I thought that we were physical.
“I thought we could be a little bit more physical as a team, but you know, when you're in the Playoffs, the Eastern Conference Finals, you're fighting for every possession. You're fighting for every inch, and it's going to get chippy and it's going to get physical.”
Despite a 10-day layoff since closing out the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, small forward LeBron James, power forward Kevin Love and center Tristan Thompson combined to score 90 points, pull down 30 rebounds and steal five passes in the lopsided victory.
James led the way with 38 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals over 42 minutes. James finished the game plus-16, the second-best margin of the game. It was James’ seventh straight playoff game with at least 30 points.
The last time that was accomplished was by Shaquille O’Neal during the 2002-2003 season.
“I wasn't upset by it,” James said of the contact. “You know, it's a physical game. I don't know when they look at it and when they don't look at it as far as the officials. I'm not sure when they go look at the monitor and when they don't, but I was able to get up and knock down my free throws, just keep pushing.
“We've just got to continue -- the main thing is just to win the ballgame no matter how physical or how chippy it gets. We just want to play ball, and that's all that matters.”
Lue added, “Anytime you're dealing with a great player, it's always good to try to throw different defenders, different defenses, and just try to keep him off balance. You can't give a great player a steady diet of the same thing or they'll pick it apart. He's pretty much seen every defense you can probably throw at him. No, I don't see anything wrong with that.”
With the Cavaliers looking to take a 2-0 lead over the Celtics and head back to Cleveland with a commanding advantage in the best-of-seven series, the players and coach know they have to focus on their play and not get dragged into confrontations should the level of physicality rise.
“Just their home crowd, they're going to come out playing harder, more desperate,” Lue said. “This team has had their back against the wall before, so we know they're going to come out and perform. It's only one game, so they'll make adjustments and come out and be ready for Game 2.
“To be more physical, that's just part of the game, but we just have to keep our composure. We have to be more physical, also, but just keep our composure and just play through it.”