Here's the only context that matters, however: Celtics 107, Cavaliers 94. In front of a capacity home crowd of 18,624 at the TD Garden, the Celtics relentlessly attacked the hoop and scored early and often After just one quarter of play, they buried the Cavs under the pile of a 36-18 avalanche, thanks to a 64 percent shooting accuracy.
James drives through defenders of any size and strength, brushing them off like the bullets that hit the back of King Kong as he climbed the Empire State Building.
"I didn't go to college, so it's not March Madness", he said. So perhaps Boston's defense, and not Tatum's shoulder, took away some of James' punch. He didn't even come close. Morris probably won't light it up like that again but the Cavs don't have any defensive stoppers outside of James and no rim protection, so the Celtics should feast each night. "He's been doing this for a long time, and if he's not the greatest, he's one of the greatest to do it. [James] made the right play and the right pass; we just didn't make shots". "Obviously understand what's at stake, and keep going".
If you're the Cavs, the only thought on the flight back to Cleveland should be, "Now what?"
But the Celtics, for what it's worth, are aware of what's coming their way from James in Game 2.
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But there the Celtics were, back in the Eastern Conference finals against the Cavaliers for the second year in a row-with Hayward, Irving, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin all injured and coach Brad Stevens down to an eight-man rotation. We know we have to play better. Whatever they lack in experience, this group compensates for with a toughness, fearlessness and togetherness that's breathtaking.
"I was able to learn a lot from some great players - Tim (Duncan), Tony (Parker), Manu (Ginobili) and Boris (Diaw)", Baynes said. "I understand what Brad is saying". "That's what I did pick up". Not only did he manage to curb the influence of LeBron, but he was actually the better player out of the two. So I don't think naïve is the right word. "We're ready, we're prepared, and we're hungry".
But if we increase the sample size to the last three postseasons, James is averaging 33.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game, and shooting 57.6 percent from the field, in 12 games following a Cleveland playoff loss. He single-handedly destroyed the Raptors in a second-round sweep.
Now the Celtics have something positive to build off of against the Cavs going into Game 2 tonight. The Celtics have seen this kind of performance before, and it nearly never ends well. In fact, in the three games immediately following a lost this postseason, the 6-foot-8 James is averaging 41 points, 11 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game.
This performance felt more overwhelming than that one in the opening minutes and it didn't matter. The Celtics didn't panic - one of their greatest traits - and after Tatum drilled LeBron in the jaw with an errant shoulder while reaching for a loose ball, James never quite regained his form.
Even if he had, it might not have mattered.
The Celtics will have to be that much better as well to match his efforts.