LeBron James and the Cavs didn’t stand a chance against the red-hot Celtics in Game 1 of the East­ern Con­fer­ence Fi­nals at the Gar­den on Sun­day.

Metro USA (Boston) - - FRONT PAGE - MATT BURKE Matt Burke is the Ex­ec­u­tive Sports Editor and a colum­nist at Metro US. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @burke_metro

This se­ries is not even close to be­ing over, but make no mis­take — to­day is a glo­ri­ous Mon­day if you’re a Bos­ton sports fan.

The Celtics’ 2017-18 play­off run was al­ready one of the most im­prob­a­ble and im­pres­sive stretches in the rich sports his­tory of this city, but Sun­day’s 103-81 beat­down of al­leged “King” James and the Cavs in Game 1 of the East­ern Con­fer­ence Fi­nals ce­mented this Celtics team as an in­spi­ra­tional in­sti­tu­tion.

They sim­ply should not be do­ing this. Par­tic­u­larly against one of the top two or three play­ers to ever lace ’em up.

In the blowout vic­tory Sun­day at the Gar­den, Jaylen Brown was the break­out star for the C’s as he pumped in a game­high 23 points. Brown had 13 points in the Celts’ mon­ster first quar­ter that set the tone for the af­ter­noon. In those first 12 min­utes Sun­day, the Celtics dou­bled up the Cavs — outscor­ing them, 36-18.

Brown was one of many Celtics play­ers — in­clud­ing Mar­cus Mor­ris, Al Hor­ford, Jayson Ta­tum and Semi Ojel­eye — who had a turn on LeBron de­fen­sively, and all of them shined.

The 15 points LeBron scored on 5-of-16 shoot­ing was eas­ily his low­est point to­tal of this year’s play­offs. Ex­pect the Celtics to con­tinue to swamp LeBron when he at­tempts to drive to the bucket in Game 2 as it re­mains to be seen if Cleve­land has the an­cil­lary pieces this year to win a game when LeBron is hav­ing a rel­a­tively quiet night.

Of note, in the Cavs’ three play­off losses to the Pac­ers in Round 1 LeBron did not score more than 28 points. Con­versely, when­ever he’s gone off for 30 or more this post­sea­son, the Cavs have won.

This Cavs team does not have a le­git 1A player like they had a year ago in Kyrie Irv­ing and like the Heat had in Dwyane Wade back when LeBron’s tal­ents were be­ing prac­ticed in South Beach.

Kevin Love cer­tainly did not look ready to shoul­der that load, de­spite him scor­ing a team-high 17 in Game 1. Love went just 1-for-4 from 3-point ter­ri­tory and Brown had a key block on one of his shots in the first half that di­rectly led to points on the other end for the C’s.

So, LeBron is go­ing to have to do this thing on his own, and that fi­nally may be too much to ask from the 33-year-old who has about 83,000 miles on his play­off odome­ter — par­tic­u­larly against a Celtics team which is play­ing the best all-around team bas­ket­ball in the NBA since the 2004 cham­pion Pis­tons.

For what­ever rea­son, LeBron looked out of sorts on Sun­day. He missed a layup down 20 points in the third quar­ter, and com­plained to the refs about a foul — of course. No call.

The stripes did call the King for a rare trav­el­ing vi­o­la­tion in the fourth quar­ter, though.

No doubt, LeBron will politic his way into get­ting the ticky-tack calls the rest of the se­ries and this matchup will quickly be­come nip and tuck. But for a day, Celtics fans own the right to gloat.

Af­ter all, the star­less C’s are de­stroy­ing the King.


Jayson Ta­tum gets the Gar­den crowd fired up with an­other 3-pointer on Sun­day. GETTY IM­AGES

Mar­cus Mor­ris crashes into the Cava­liers’ bench Sun­day in Game 1. GETTY IM­AGES

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