The Cleveland Cavaliers went into Boston for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals last night and handily dispatched the Celtics 117-104. The Cavs had not played a game in nine days, while the Celtics just finished up a grueling seven-game series with the Wizards on Monday—and it showed. LeBron finished the night with 38 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, and one absolutely demoralizing moment frozen in time:
Now look, LeBron James is listed at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds and Isaiah Thomas is…not. He's giving up a foot and about 65 pounds to LeBron and this is the sort of thing that happens when a guy like Thomas runs into a guy like LeBron. (And Thomas literally ran into him, fouling him to negate a beautiful spin move and would-be dunk.)
Thomas had a breakout season this year and is the major reason his Celtics, not the Cavs, are the No. 1 seed in the East. He's a tiny, shit-talking, scoring machine, who made a name for himself with standout fourth quarter performances this year. With Thomas running the show, the Celtics won 53 games in the regular season, two more than the Cavaliers. But as we've learned over the years, Regular Season LeBron and Playoffs LeBron are two different things. His game currently is at a place where you'd have a hard time convincing anyone that the Cavs couldn't run the table in the East, even if they were the No. 8 seed. The first minute of this LeBron highlight reel is all from the first quarter last night, and it's approximately 15 drives to the rim in which he is totally unconcerned with whoever is guarding him.
Other teams aren't actually opponents, they're just hurdles on the race course. There is an inevitability surrounding these playoffs and this is the picture for those thousand words.
It's not that anyone thinks the Celtics are a bad team, or not up to the challenge, it's just the challenge is so goddamned challenging. They're trying, they really are, but LeBron and the Cavs can basically just pat them on the head—from a foot and a half above—and say "good job, good effort."