BOSTON — This game may have been lost on its first possession, 26 seconds into the action. Celtics star point guard Isaiah Thomas came off a screen from Al Horford on the top right wing and accepted a handoff. Immediately, guard J.R. Smith collapsed on Thomas, forcing him into the corner. He was quickly joined by power forward Kevin Love, and Thomas found himself a 5-9 squirrel looking up at 13-plus feet of pines.

Thomas tried to find daylight. Instead, Love stripped the ball from Thomas for a turnover. The Cavaliers never looked back from there. They led wire to wire and won 117-104 to open the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden.

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“We know Isaiah is dangerous,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “When he gets going, the crowd really gets into it, their team gets into it and it opens up a lot of things. When you try to take him out of the series, try to make it tough on him, you’ve got to give up something else. . . . But our main objective (was) to make it physical on Isaiah, try to take him out, and we did a good job of that.”

Thomas said he was not surprised by anything he saw from the Cavaliers. “They played how they played throughout the season,” he said. “I just missed shots. Didn’t get a rhythm. Next game, I will definitely be more aggressive to get into the paint, make plays and make stuff happen.”

Thomas had 10 assists but only 17 points on 7-for-19 shooting, which fit the pattern of star-removal by Cleveland’s defense this postseason. The Cavs clamped down on Pacers star Paul George (38.6 percent shooting) in their first series, then wrapped up DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors (20.8 points on 42.6 percent shooting) in the conference semis. They did it the same way, too: with good individual efforts from the likes of Smith and Iman Shumpert backed up by frequent and hard traps.

“It’s what you saw on film coming in,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “You know you’re going to get trapped. You know the blitz is going to come.”

It came, and the Celtics couldn’t find any real answers, at least not until the game was out of reach.

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Just like that, all the consternation over how the Cavaliers closed the regular season had almost done melting away, if it hadn’t already. Remember how they finished 6-9 in coughing up the top seed in the East? Remember how they allowed 111.4 points on 47.4 percent shooting in those games? Remember the struggles against the pick-and-roll? The outcome Wednesday erased all that.

The Cavs blew through their first two series, sweeping Indiana and Toronto, and arrived in the conference finals with a 9.6-point average margin of victory to their credit. The offense was a juggernaut and the defense had rediscovered its footing. The Celtics, meanwhile, limped in following a seven-gamer against the Wizards. So this blowout was building.

All that was left for Cleveland was to reclaim the home-court advantage it had lost to Boston a month ago. Mission accomplished on that.

The star, as usual, was LeBron James, who easily coasted past or over a slew of hapless Celtics defenders for 38 points on 14-for-24 shooting. Kevin Love provided his best support of these playoffs, scoring 32 points and making 9 of 16 3-point attempts, most of which came without a Celtic within a broom’s length (sorry, sweep reference) on defense.

But the defense was the difference. Go back to that opening possession, with Thomas helpless. That presaged how things would go for Boston.

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In the playoffs, the Cleveland defense has been aggressive in trapping and blitzing pick-and-rolls. The last time these teams played in the postseason, in 2015, Shumpert corralled Thomas in a Cleveland sweep. The D is giving Thomas a heavier dose of pressure this time around. So far, Thomas, Stevens and the Celtics haven’t had answers — and it’s hard to see from where they’ll come.

“It’s probably (at) even a higher level,” guard Kyrie Irving said of the Cavs’ defense. “Even more conscious effort to be more aware of the plays they are running out there and we could actually prepare for them. It was great being back out there, in a high-intensity atmosphere. The Eastern Conference finals.”

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