For the first time in four years, a team with LeBron James on it is trailing in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Boston Celtics trounced the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 by a score of 108-83.
The 25-point defeat was the second-largest Game 1 loss of LeBron’s postseason career, and much of the blame can be attributed to the King himself:
The Cavaliers’ starters were outscored by 42 points in Game 1, the worst such point differential by a LeBron James team in the postseason.
The previous worst was -34 at Spurs in Game 5 of 2013 NBA Finals. pic.twitter.com/3KCPRkf5jw
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 14, 2018
Even though James hasn’t been in this position since the Pacers took a 1-0 lead in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, said he isn’t worried, pointing to the fact that one game doesn’t decide an NBA postseason like it does in the NCAA.
Cavaliers' LeBron James after blowout loss to Celtics in Game 1: "I have zero level of concern at this stage. I didn't go to college, so it's not March Madness." pic.twitter.com/oHI01vs6rx
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 13, 2018
“I have zero level of concern at this stage. I didn’t go to college, so it’s not March Madness,” he told reporters. “You get better throughout the series and see ways you can get better throughout the series.
“I’ve been down 0-1, I’ve been down 0-2, I’ve been down before in the postseason. … I’m just as confident going into a series no matter if it’s a 0-0 series or if I’m down 0-1. We have an opportunity to be better as a ballclub come Tuesday night, and we’ll see what happens.”
If you’ve been paying attention to LeBron’s postgame press conferences, you probably noticed that this quote sounds similar to one he made after the Cavs lost Game 1 of the first round series to the Pacers.
“I’ve always stayed even-keeled with the postseason,” James said after the Pacers put him in an 0-1 hole in the first round for the first time in his career. “I mean, I’m down 0-1 in the first round. I was down 3-1 in the Finals. So I’m the last guy to ask about how you’re going to feel the next couple days.”
LeBron has a right to not be worried, not just because of his history at overcoming series deficits, but also because it’s unlikely he’ll ever play as poorly as he did in Game 1.
He shot 5-of-16 from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. Many of his missed jumpers were wide open and had a much, much lower level of difficulty than those fadeaway jumpers he hit over Toronto in the semifinals.
According to Basketball-reference.com, of James’ 229 career playoff games, his Game 1 performance was the eighth-worst of his career based on Game Score, which is an formulaic estimate of a player’s productivity.
LeBron likely also isn’t worried about Marcus Morris getting the nickname of “LeBron stopper” after his Game 1 performance.
Before the series started, Morris said that besides the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, no one does a better job of defending James than he does.
Morris then backed up his words in Game 1 as he was the primary defender on LeBron, and while the four-time MVP was complimentary of Morris, he said it was a team effort by Boston to slow him down.
“I thought they had great game plan Game 1,” LeBron said. “[Morris] was the start of it. He was my matchup, and I think they did a great job of communicating throughout the whole game, knowing where I was and knowing where our teammates was.
“[Celtics coach] Brad [Stevens] and the coaching staff did a great job in Game 1. You commend that. We have an opportunity to look at a lot of film tomorrow and see ways they were making us uncomfortable, making myself off-balance and not have a rhythm all game. So we’ll be much better in Game 2.”
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