For the first time all postseason, LeBron James did not lead his team in scoring. Kevin Love scored a team-high 17 points for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who got pummeled by the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. James has had some historic postseason games at TD Garden, but struggled mightily on Sunday—posting just 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting with seven turnovers—in a demoralizing 108-83 defeat.
It certainly took a team effort to shut down James, but Marcus Morris was the driving force behind the Celtics containing the NBA’s best player. Morris guarded James on a team-high 39 possessions and held him to 3-of-10 shooting with five assists and four turnovers in those instances. James missed all five of his three-point attempts and was never able to get into a rhythm offensively.
Before Game 1, Morris praised his ability to guard James.
“Personally, I think I’m probably the best guy defending him in the league, outside of Kawhi [Leonard],” Morris said.
Earning the start over center Aron Baynes as the Celtics went with their small-ball starting unit, Morris backed up his claims in the series opener. The 6'-9” forward used his strength and toughness to slow down James, who looked out of sorts all afternoon and finished with a stunning minus -32. It was just one game in what is expected to be a long series, but there is an extended history of “Mook” containing “The King”—proving that Morris' lofty claims have some serious merit.
Not only did Morris play terrific defense, he also had a strong game on the offensive end, posting 21 points with a team-best 10 rebounds. Morris says the injury-riddled Celtics—who were underdogs on Sunday for the fifth time in six games (5-1 record in those contests)—believe they are capable of defeating any opponent.
“Our confidence is very high,” Morris said. “The younger guys to the older guys, we think we can compete and play with anybody. At the end of the day, all the talking done off the court. Once we step between them lines, we have to compete no matter who we have out there, and that's what we've been doing.”