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James’ T-Double Cavs hardly needed
By Eddie Alinea
Thu, 17 May 2018
Boston head coach Brad Stevens expected that Cleveland would do everything within or beyond reach to reverse Game 1 results the Celtics stole in their NBA Eastern Conference finals on the road.
Stevens, a day before Game 2, even predicted LeBron James and the Cavs to throw heavyweight punches at his boys to attain their goal of keeping what seemed a dwindling hope of tying the count alive in their home.
Only James, however, could deliver the haymaker by way of another triple double 42 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds one-man performance.
That proved though good only in the first half and which the Celtics easily survived via a murderous onslaught the rest of the way starting with a dizzying 36-22 binge in the third quarter.
That erased a seven-point 55-48 Cleveland edge of what remained an 11-point advantage in the first quarter alone where James had 21 points.
While James did what he vowed to do following game 1 defeat, the Celtics stuck to what they do best: defend that opened the gate to offense in the second half and to a 107-94 win in Game 2 on the way to taking a 2-0 series lead.
"The biggest thing is we're just trying to make it as hard as possible," Stevens told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today of his team’s defense. "And I think that we all have a good grasp on that that's not always going to work, so don't hang your head, go down and score. And then if you can make it as hard as possible for as long as possible, maybe you can get somewhere."
The Celtics started a 21-year-old second-year guard Jaylen Brown, a 20-yeard-old rookie Jayson Tatum and 24-year-old point guard Rozier who started the season as a backup and moved into the starting lineup when Kyle Irving needed season-ending knee surgery.
They, according to Stevens, have been Boston’s best two-way players early in the series.
Brown had 23 points and seven rebounds, and Tatum scored nine of his 11 points in the second quarter, keeping Boston within a manageable deficit. Rozier had five rebounds to go along with his 18 points.
The Celtics, so far, have been showing they are the better team with better offense and defense, younger legs, more energy and more answers. They, too, have outhustled the Cavs.
If the Cavs hope to advance to the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive season and James to play in his eighth consecutive Finals, they need to win four of the next five games, including at least one in Boston where the Celtics are 9-0 in the postseason.
"We have an opportunity to go back home, protect home court," James said after Game 2. "We're going to use these days to really dive in on what needs to be done to help our ballclub be successful. They did what they had to do, and that was protect home, and now it's our time to try to do that, as well."
James, with 3:48 suffered a strained neck in the second quarter after taking an accidental shoulder to the head from Tatum, hasn’t been down 2-0 in an Eastern Conference series since 2008 against the Celtics. It was his 22nd triple-double and his 24th career playoff game with at least 40 points – and fifth this postseason.
The Celtics looked fine with James scoring that much as long they make him work for his points and as long as Cleveland’s other players don’t. Kevin Love had 22 points and 15 rebounds, and Kyle Korver had 11 points – all in the first half.
J.R. Smith went scoreless (0-for-7), Jeff Green had six points and George Hill just three points.
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