James, Love key Cavs’ win
Eastern Conference Finals: Cleveland 117, Boston 104
BOSTON — LeBron James embarrassed every defender Boston threw at him and the Cleveland Cavaliers picked up where they left off following a long layoff, rolling to a 117-104 victory over the Celtics on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
James had 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
“He’s playing at a high level. And that’s the reason why we’re riding him so much,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “When LeBron’s playing at that level other guys just have to be solid and we have a good chance to win.”
Coming off a 10-day break, James and Cavaliers raced to an early lead were never threatened.
“You can’t dig yourself in a big hole like that against them,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said.
Kevin Love added a playoff career-high 32 points and had 12 rebounds to help the Cavaliers improve to 9-0 in the first three rounds of the playoffs. They opened 10-0 last season en route to their first NBA title.
Game 2 is Friday night in Boston.
James scored at will in the first half and the Cavs built a 26-point lead. Love opened up the floor for James, burying outside jumpers and forcing Boston to leave defenders one-on-one with James.
Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder led the Celtics with 21 points each. Isaiah Thomas had 17 points. Boston missed 11 of its first 14 shots.
Love averaged a quiet 13.8 points in the first two rounds, then broke out against a Boston team that knocked him out of the 2015 playoffs when he became tangled with Kelly Olynyk and dislocated his shoulder.
The shoulder was working just fine Wednesday, and he scored in the paint and from the outside.