"Defending LeBron James 101" has become a master class, and already the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors have flunked out of the National Basketball Association playoffs because they could not find a successful and consistent plan against the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar.
At the podium LeBron added, "I don't even think we played that great tonight". LeBron had a rough game 1, but he's too good to be shutdown all series long. I've been down before. "We have another opportunity to be better". "He's going to approach this game as one where he's going to have to lead and bounce back". "We didn't play well".
Perhaps a little bit of extra practice will get James and the Cavs back to their winning ways. The Celtics got off to a hot start in game 1 and used a 17-0 first quarter run to distance themselves from the Cavaliers.
The four-time NBA MVP did have a momentary lapse in memory by initially referring to teammate Jordan Clarkson as NBA journeyman Jordan Crawford, but he quickly corrected himself while noting that Clarkson missed a shot.
It's hard to imagine the Celtics, who built a 28-point lead at one point, playing any better than they did on Sunday.
The Celtics showed James several different looks throughout the game, switching as many as five different players on him. "The younger guys to the older guys, we think we can compete and play with anybody". The Cavs made just 36 percent of their shots, were outrebounded (48-40) and surrendered 60 points in the paint.
It is safe to say at this point that the Boston Celtics have benefited greatly from having home-court advantage in the play-offs. "They did a great job of communicating the whole game". "But they did a lot of switching so it wasn't just Morris on him. I was out of my rhythm the whole game". In fact, James is a flawless 5-0 in Eastern Conference series in his career when losing Game 1. Players like LeBron or Kevin Love could get whatever they wanted against him.
He looked much more interested in analyzing the Stevens and the Celtics' defensive gameplan against him more than manipulating the defense and exploiting their holes.
"We've got to help 'Bron", JR Smith said after the opener. "When he thought he had driving lanes, they made him kick it out to other shooters".
"We didn't play well". We know we have to play better. They attacked us early on. "It's what makes us the best team that we can be". The C's guard was just 4-for-10 from the floor and missed all three of his three-point bids, finishing with a modest eight points in Sunday's victory.
But the likes of Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier have helped the Celtics move just three wins away from reaching the NBA Finals.
"Our young guys are special".
"It's exciting", said Morris. "Their mentality, the way they carry themselves, is like veterans in this league".
But there has been only one time when James' team has lost a Game 1 by a wider margin than Sunday's 25 points: the 2006 second round at Detroit, when the Cavs were dismantled 113-86.
James scored 17 points with six boards and six assists on 7-of-14 shooting in the second half - with 10 in the fourth quarter.
James said Tatum's shoulder was a "tough blow" and "incidental", and he needed to go to the locker room to "kind of recalibrate".