Fans of the David Simon show "The Wire" will no doubt recall the words of Omar, the self-proclaimed king of the mean streets of West Baltimore, who warned his enemies that "If you come for the King, you best not miss."
Well, Marcus Morris of the Boston Celtics did not miss. The King in this scenario is King James, first name LeBron, and he's the best basketball player on earth, evidenced by the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs in which he's repeatedly and almost single-handedly led his Cleveland Cavaliers into the NBA's eastern conference finals. Before game one, Morris said he was one of the best LeBron defenders in the game, and was more than ready to start for the Celtics with the unenviable task of preventing James from running roughshod over a young and undermanned Celtics squad, a decided underdog in this series despite having home court advantage.
Morris was true to his word, turning in an amazing performance in which he scored 21 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, but more importantly, forced LeBron into seven turnovers, limited him to just 15 points, a playoff low, and was a critical part of the blowout start for Boston that resulted in a 108-83 dismantling of Cleveland.
The Celtics jumped out to a 21-point first quarter lead, led at the half 61-35, and had a 28-point lead in the fourth quarter when Cleveland coach Tyronne Lue finally waved the white flag and had LeBron sit out the last seven minutes of a game that was only close at the opening tip-off.
Jaylen Brown scored 23 points, Al Horford added 20, and the Celtics got stifling defense from nearly every player on the parquet to make quite the statement in game one for the team that knocked them out of the conference finals in just five games a year ago.
And the Celtics, who just keep defying the odds and winning, especially on their home court, where they're a perfect 8-0 in these playoffs, are doing it without superstars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, but also a depleted cast of role players like Shane Larkin and Daniel Theis who are also out with injury, which forced coach Brad Stevens to go to an eight-man rotation in yesterday's blow out win.
Now, it's just one game, and no doubt the Indiana Pacers, who took an early lead in round one against the Cavs, also thought they had LeBron on the ropes, only to see him bounce back from losses and produce a series victory. But the Celtics seem to thrive every time they're counted out, and right now they're brimming with confidence heading into game two in Bsoton tomorrow night.
To major league baseball, and the Boston Red Sox finished their longest road trip of the season thus far ion the right foot, beating the Blue Jays in Toronto 5-3 yesterday. J.D. Martinez is proving to be a great off season acquisition, just the slugger the Sox needed in the middle of their line-up since the retirement of David Ortiz, and he belted his 10th home run of the season in the first inning, a two run shot, to establish and early lead on a day when the Boston bullpen needed to bail out starter Drew Pomeranz, who was not sharp, issuing five walks while giving up three runs in the fifth to end his day. But Sox relievers would not yield another run, and Joe Kelly got the save in the 9th on a day when closer Craig Kimbrel was given a rest by manager Alex Cora. Hector Velazquez was especially good, working two scoreless innings, and it was good to see both Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes rebound from recent poor outings, each throwing a scoreless inning to set Kelly up for the 9th.
Mookie Betts also made a spectacular catch in right field, running a long way across the turf to leap and snag the ball, sliding into foul territory on his stomach right up to the low wall in the process. The Sox finish their road trip at 6-4 and return to Fenway park tonight to take on the Oakland A's.
The A's, meanwhile, didn't do much to slow down the juggernaut NY Yankees, who stay even with Boston for first place in the A.L. east after a 6-2 win over Oakland at the Stadium yesterday. Giancarlo Stanton went 4 for 4 with a home run, more than enough for Yankee ace Luis Severino, who struck out seven over six innings of work, running his record to 6-1 on the season.
The Yankees now hit the road for an 8-game trip, beginning with an inter-league series against Bryce harper and the Washington Nationals.
In the Stanley Cup playoffs the Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves in an 0-2 hole, losing both games to start the eastern conference finals against the Washington Capitals at home, including yesterday's 6-2 rout. The Caps trailed 2-1 but scored three unanswered in the second period to pull away, the last two of the goals coming with just over a minute to go in the frame. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller each had a goal and two assists to lead the Capitals offense, and the series now moves to the nation's capitol with Tampa in desperate need of a win for game three.