In case you were wondering how much LeBron James is sweating the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden in Boston, your answer came late in the first quarter, when the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player found himself covered one-on-one by newly minted postseason hero and reserve Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk.
So, to review:
• Dribble over half-court and wait for center Tristan Thompson to screen off Boston rookie swingman Jaylen Brown, triggering a switch that draws the not-exactly-fleet-of-foot Olynyk.
• Dribble over to your bench, turn your back to the defender and go between your legs while you get ready to turn around and make your move.
• Take four dribbles straight at said defender, nudge him out of your way with the left shoulder, go straight to the rim and lay it up over both the initial defender and the help as if neither of them are there, or ever have been.
That layup gave James 13 points, and gave Cleveland an 11-point lead with just under one minute remaining in the first quarter. He’d go on to put up 23 on 10-for-15 shooting — with all 10 makes coming within eight feet of the basket, many looking just like that almost-too-easy layup over Olynyk and Brown — as the well-rested visiting Cavs steamrolled the No. 1-seeded Celtics for a 61-39 lead at intermission.
Boston showed some more life in the second half, but never came close to threatening, as the Cavs scored a 117-104 win that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. James, as always, led the way with 38 points on 14-for-24 shooting, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals in 42 minutes.
One game into his seventh straight conference finals, LeBron has extended his obscure but remarkably impressive NBA record:
LeBron James has won a road playoff game in an NBA record 29 consecutive series
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 18, 2017
So, y’know, you can understand why he might not be sweating too much right about now.
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