by: Ty Anderson on Wed, 05/17/2017 - 11:11pm

LeBron James scored 38 points in 41 minutes in Game 1. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)For the first time in the 2017 NBA Playoffs, the Cavaliers seemed ripe for the taking.

The Cavaliers came to Boston having not played in a game in 10 days. On the other bench, the Celtics, though fatigued, were riding the emotional high of their Game 7 victory over the Wizards on Monday night. The East-best Celtics did not have to battle the fatigue of playing on short rest and traveling, either, and were instead back at the Garden that they've admitted has given them a definite emotional lift throughout the playoffs. 

So, if the Celtics were going to have anything even resembling something close to a chance in this third-round series with the Cavaliers, it was going to come from their performance in the opening game. 

But after a wire-to-wire domination from the reigning champs, finishing as a 117-104 beatdown from the Cavaliers in Game 1, the Cavaliers have proved that they are just as good as their 8-0 playoff record advertised, and that the Celtics are cooked. 

And it started early. 

The Celtics were incapable of winning a rebound battle against Cleveland big man Tristan Thompson, who had as many offensive rebounds by himself as the Celtics had total rebounds in one quarter. Meanwhile, Isaiah Thomas missed left, right, and center. It wasn’t until 9:22 into the first quarter -- after a bad turnover and three straight misses to begin his night -- that Thomas found himself on the board, with the C’s 14th and 15th points of the night. And as LeBron James flexed the muscles that have won him six straight Eastern Conference titles, and simply toyed with every single body that the Celtics tried to match up against him, a 14-to-2 Cleveland run in the first helped guide the Cavs to an 11-point edge through the first quarter.

That 11-point deficit the Cavs put the C’s in almost seemed like mercy for what was to come. 

It was in the second quarter that the Cavaliers finally hit a three-point shot, and with six straight misses from the Celtics in the midst of a 12-0 run for Cleveland, a Thomas three saved this game from what would have been the worst first half of a Celtics playoff game in the franchise’s 71-year history.

By just two points. 

The 24-minute clinic spoke to the effectiveness of this Cavs club, and by the time that the Celtics finally punched James and the Cavs back with some key makes in the third, it was beyond too late. 

And so for the second time in three rounds, the first coming in the club’s opening-round six-game series with the Bulls, the Celtics will begin a series in a hole. But I don’t need to tell you that the Cavaliers aren’t the Bulls, and for all the right reasons. The Cavs’ blowout crew is probably on the same level as Chicago’s starting five. The Cavs are twice the team that the Wizards are, too, and Wednesday proved that. 

It’s just impossible to express how thin the margin of error is when you play this Cavs team. 

With the best player in the world on their team, they don’t need you to help them beat you into dust, which is exactly what the Celtics did behind a 1-for-15 half from three-point land, Al Horford’s worst half of basketball of the spring, and the aforementioned Thomas struggles, but they’ll take it and simply find a way to up your misery. By the time it hits you and the gravity of these self-inflicted wounds is fully explained, the Cavs have already hung a 10-spot on you -- and not even from their Big Three of James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. And it’s in line with what’s happened in this season series. Of the 13 games in which the Celtics have trailed by 20 this year, the Cavs have been the leaders on four different occasions, and these teams have only played five times. 

A mismatch? Yeah, just a bit.

And the worst part about this if you're the Celtics is that the Cavs, are officlally back in the rhythm that never left them during their week-plus of rest.

Of course, there’s something to be said about the Celtics as a team that loves to manufacture outrage. 

They’ll be the first to rub it in your face if they prove you wrong, much like they did once they successfully found their Houdini escape out of an 0-2 hole against the Bulls a month ago, and they did it with their Game 7 victory over the Wizards just 48 hours ago. It’s part of their makeup and what’s made them so good when things have seemed to be at their worst. A team of underdogs -- many of whom started out as mere chips of a rebuild that should have taken much longer -- and none bigger than the 5-foot-9 Thomas, the C’s have consistently turned doubt from pundits into tangible results. 

But the Celtics are battling more than pundits this time. They’re going against a basketball giant. 

One that will only get taller if and when this series deficit grows.