While LeBron James and his star-studded supporting cast were firing away at underdog Boston in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series, the smallest guy on the court for the Celtics was putting up the biggest fight.
In the first playoff game of his career, 5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas went right at the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers. He led Boston with 22 points and 10 assists in the 113-100 defeat, and represents the overmatched Celtics’ best chance to make this a series.
“He’s a scoring threat at all times,” said James, whose Cavaliers will try to take a 2-0 lead in the series on Tuesday. “Our antennas need to be up when he comes into the game. His ability to make shots, to get into the lane, to get to the free throw line, we should always pay attention to him when he comes into the game. He raises their level as far as their tempo. It goes up when he comes into the game. We have to be very, very conscious about when he enters the game.”
Thomas is one of a handful of small combo guards shouldering big loads for their teams in the playoffs.
When the Mavericks play at Houston in Game 2 on Tuesday night, Monta Ellis will have to do better than 16 points on 16 shots if Dallas hopes to even the series. The Washington Wizards take a 1-0 lead into Game 2 of their series against the Raptors in Toronto in the third playoff game on Tuesday night.
Elsewhere, Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers, Jarrett Jack in Brooklyn and Aaron Brooks with the Bulls can change the complexion of their team’s offense with a hot streak.
Here’s a look at the three NBA playoff games Tuesday (all times EDT):
Celtics at Cavaliers, Cavaliers lead 1-0, Game 2, 7 p.m., TNT
All the intrigue at the start of the series centered on how LeBron James’ supporting cast — namely, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving — would respond to their first playoff experience.
After a frantic start, James told an assistant coach during a timeout that they just needed to take a deep breath.
“They’ve never experienced this before,” James said with a smile.
Once they settled down, the Cavs took off. Irving scored 30 points and Love had 19 points and 12 rebounds in the 113-100 victory. Now that they have that first one under their belts, the Celtics really have their work cut out for them.
And it doesn’t just stop with Cleveland’s three stars. Role players like James Jones and Tristan Thompson did the dirty work and were a big part of the Cavs’ 34-9 finish to the regular season.
“It’s like a company,” Thompson said. “You have your janitor, your CEO. You have your secretaries,” said Thompson, who said his job is to bring energy as a reserve. “I don’t mind being the cleanup guy, punching the clock. I’ll do all the little things.”
Wizards at Raptors, Wizards lead 1-0, Game 2, 8 p.m., NBATV
One game into the series and the Raptors have already lost homecourt advantage after dropping the opener in overtime in front of their rowdy fans.
“The pressure is on us to come and produce in Game 2,” coach Dwane Casey said. “Anytime you lose a game you kind of put the monkey on your back.”
The Raptors shot just 38 percent in the opener and starting point guard Kyle Lowry fouled out after scoring seven points on 2-for-10 shooting. But a lot of the focus was on James Johnson, a rugged defender who did not play in Game 1.
As Wizards veteran Paul Pierce scored 20 points and made 7 of 10 shots, Raptors fans started chanting “We want James!” in hopes he could put Pierce in check. But Casey didn’t play him,
“It’s not a backup quarterback controversy,” Casey said. “James has been in this role the whole year. There’s going to be a time and place for him in the playoffs.”
And although Wizards star John Wall scored only 10 points on 5-for-18 shooting, he said he felt right at home in his second postseason. No more nerves for him. Those were taken care of in his first series last year.
“I wasn’t really nervous this time,” Wall said. “Last year I was because it was my first time and we didn’t play on (national) TV in so long. It was fun. I was ready to get it going. I wasn’t really nervous. I think both teams looked nervous because we couldn’t make (any) shots. Other than that, it was cool.”
Mavericks at Rockets, Rockets lead 1-0, Game 2, 9:30 p.m., TNT
The Mavericks lost Game 1, and may have lost one of their key players as well. Forward Chandler Parsons was running gingerly on the knee that kept him out of the final six games of the regular season.
Parsons scored 10 points on 5-for-15 shooting and is listed as questionable for Game 2. He did not practice on Monday.
“There may not be an update until right before the game when we submit all of our stuff,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “That’s where we are right now.”
Losing Parsons would be a big blow for a Mavericks team that hums on offense when the versatile small forward is in the lineup. His ability to spread the floor and get out in transition is a big part of what the Mavericks do when they’re at their best.
The Rockets are very familiar with Parsons’ skills. He spent his first three seasons in Houston before leaving for big money last summer.
As important as stars James Harden and Dwight Howard were for the Rockets in Game 1, sixth man Corey Brewer provided a big lift with his energy. He scored 15 points and hit 3 of 4 3-pointers to give Houston’s second unit a boost.
“That’s what we were brought here for to help James and Dwight out,” Brewer said. “So if we’re wide open we’ve got to make shots and we’ve got to help those guys.”
AP Sports Writers Tom Withers in Cleveland, Kristie Rieken in Houston, Schuyler Dixon in Dallas and Ian Harrison in Toronto and AP freelance writer Benjamin Standig in Washington contributed to this report.
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