At least in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, youth was served for the Boston Celtics as small forward Jaylen Brown, a second-year player, scored a game-high 23 points with eight rebounds in a 108-83 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden last Sunday.
Rookie power forward Jayson Tatum, who played one season at Duke, had 16 points with six caroms and three assists while power forward/center Al Horford added 20 points.
“I do whatever they want me to do,’’ said Horford, a five-time All-Star, who has toiled 11 seasons in the NBA and handed out six assists with four boards. “We came out focused and we played with intensity.’’
Boston smartly and correctly clogged the painted area which forced Cleveland (31 of 86 for 36 percent and four of 26 from three-point range for 15.3 percent) and small forward LeBron James (15 points with seven rebounds and a game-best nine assists) to take jump shots.
The only player that helped James, who can be a one-man wrecking crew, but had seven points at the half, was power forward Kevin Love, who dropped in a team-best 17 points with eight rebounds and three assists.
Boston, the No. 2 seed, came out ready and seized a 36-18 advantage heading into the second quarter.
The Celtics cruised in front 11-7 with 6:59 showing in the initial frame as Horford scored a layup.
When Brown also put in a layup and 3:36 left, Boston’s lead expanded to 25-9.
Brown contributed 13 points while Horford added 11 points in the first period.
Boston (43 of 84 for 51.1 percent and 11 of 30 treys for 36.6 percent) pulled ahead 61-35 at the intermission behind Brown’s 18 points and Horford’s 14.
Boston took charge 47-27 with 5:25 left in the second quarter as Tatum nailed a three-pointer and 58-33 on Horford’s trey and 1:58 showing.
The Cavaliers, who won the title in 2016 and are the No. 4 seed, didn’t quit as they outscored the Celtics 29-17 in the third quarter and closed within 78-64 on a 20-footer from power forward Jeff Green (six points) after three quarters.
Boston came out in the fourth quarter and reestablished itself after scoring the first seven points and waltzed in front 85-64 with 10:51 left on Tatum’s layup.
The Celtics went on an 11-4 outburst and darted in front 96-68 with 7:08 left on a layup from point guard Terry Rozier (eight points with six rebounds with a team-best eight assists).
Power forward Marcus Morris added 21 points with a team-high 10 caroms for the Celtics.
Small forward Rodney Hood had 11 points, while point guard Jordan Clarkson finished with 10 points and center Tristan Thompson added eight points with a game-best 11 boards for the Cavaliers.
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.