The Cleveland Cavaliers were outmuscled and out-hustled in Game 1 vs. Boston Celtics

Donovan Mitchell was left hanging on offense in the Game 1 loss to the Boston Celtics
Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One
Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

156. cavs lose game 1 to celtics. 120. 18. Final. 95

The Boston Celtics, absent Kristaps Porziņģis, were sharper from three-point land and were the nastier team at close range to secure the Game 1 triumph over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Isaac Okoro started at power forward for the third time in the team's last four games for Jarrett Allen, who missed his fourth straight outing with a rib injury.

The Cavaliers went down 10 points in the first three minutes, but Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Caris LeVert, Marcus Morris Sr. and Okoro responded with the squad's next 32 points. The issue was that the defense provided little resistance, allowing Gang Green (Celtics) to feast inside the arc in the first quarter. Soon, the visitors’ attack fell apart while its protections yielded further.

Donovan Mitchell did all he could- finishing with 33 points on 48 percent shooting with six rebounds, five assists and a steal. Still, it wasn’t enough to drag his crew to victory against the league's best team from the regular season. When the fourth quarter started with the Cavaliers down 15 points, he was gassed and played four more minutes.

The Cavaliers lost by 25 points in the end. Additionally, the squad picked up 42 paint points, 17 on the break, nine via second chances, eight off turnovers and 15 from the bench.

Let’s examine the areas the Cavaliers need to improve ahead of Game 2 in Boston.

Perimeter defense killed the Cavaliers

The Cavaliers conceded only six of 22 triples in the first half by contesting jumpers on time. That changed after intermission.

The Cavs’ three-point defense then came undone by the Celtics’ ball movement and shots off the dribble, giving up four consecutive bangers and seven of 15 trays in the third quarter.

Subsequently, the Celtics made five of nine three-pointers in the fourth quarter, but the initial three- Brown's pull-up in transition and catch-and-shoot tray at the top plus Horford’s shot in the corner- broke the Cavaliers’ spirit. In the end, the Cavaliers conceded 18 threes out of 44 attempts from the Celtics. Derrick White led the team with seven triples in 12 tries.

Cleveland needs to commit to rebounding

The Celtics ate up time, recovering 12 offensive rebounds that turned into a meager four second-chance points. The Cavaliers were lucky the Celtics could not convert their second opportunities, but they cannot rely on this to stay the case going forward.

The Cavaliers secured seven offensive rebounds, resulting in nine second-chance points. Four of those offensive rebounds belonged to Evan Mobley before the fourth quarter. By the final buzzer, Cleveland lost the rebounding battle 38-55 with only three Cavs grabbing more than five rebounds in the game.

Evan Mobley’s offensive struggles continued

Alex, the villain in A Clockwork Orange, is reformed through the Ludovico technique, a method that sedates him and ties him to a chair, keeping his eyes open as he watches violent tapes.

The Cavaliers should explore binding Evan Mobley to a seat in the film room while lowlights of his missed shots and basket look-offs run on repeat with cheers of opposing fans in the background.

Mobley made three baskets in seven attempts before garbage time but finished the game logging eight-of-12 shots. As a follow-up to his offense in the previous series versus the Orlando Magic, he was gun-shy while the team needed more from him in Allen’s prolonged absence.

He got blocked by Tatum, who came in as a help defender, on his first shot of the game while going up on Derrick White in the post. Luke Kornet caused Mobley to fail on a hook in the lane, and he bricked another facing Jaylen Brown. On top of that, Mobley was unable to score, driving past Tatum on the baseline.

Yet, in the fourth quarter, three of his five straight buckets were well-covered against Kornet’s outstretched limbs in the paint. The Cavaliers will need his late-game vigor earlier on offense to stay alive in the series.

Darius Garland's woes with Cavaliers

Darius Garland didn’t commit any turnovers in Game 1, but he was inefficient, making six-of-15 shots, including two-of-eight from beyond the arc. White and Holiday tracked him closely coming off screens and stayed in front of his dribble. Xavier Tillman switched on his drive and disputed it.

Garland's efficiency has improved over the postseason with shooting splits higher than last year, but his impact has been inconsistent in crucial moments.

Max Strus and Sam Merrill were neutralized on offense

Max Strus, alarmingly, made two of his eight shots. Jaylen Brown and Derrick White contested his jumpers on time. Strus came alive late into the first round but has now been quieted again. Cleveland has not found much value out of their two newest volume shooters with Strus' struggles and Georges Niang's losing his spot in the rotation in favor of Morris.

Defensively, Strus contributed, forcing Jayson Tatum into five misses from long, medium and short distances. For the Cavaliers to steal a game on the road in Boston, though, they need Strus to influence on both ends. The veteran wing has played against the Celtics in the playoffs before and beat them. Cleveland must maximize what Strus can provide going forward.

Merrill recorded a donut on the scoreboard, missing all five of his shots. He missed an open floater on the baseline and a makeable triple against Al Horford in drop coverage. Payton Pritchard and Jrue Holiday shut down his other deep tries. Cleveland's secret weapon from earlier in the season must step up and match Boston's three-point volume in order to shift the momentum in the Cavs' favor.

Following the blowout loss, the Cavaliers remain winless on the road in the last two postseasons. They will have their next chance to turn the corner on Thursday, May 9 at 7:00pm Eastern Time.

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