Grit, determination, and a never quit attitude. Those are traits the Celtics have embodied all season long, and everything the team exemplified in Game 2. After a hard-fought battle the Boston Celtics pulled away late for a 107-94 victory and a 2-0 series lead. LeBron’s monster game proved not quite enough, as the Celtics attacked the Cavaliers with a huge team effort.
The Cavaliers started the game with revitalized energy after inserting big man Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup in place of Kyle Korver. Thompson did a good job of locking down the pick and roll early on. He managed to disrupt the C’s offensive flow, forcing them into some tough looks.
LeBron James poured in a whopping 21 points in the first quarter, the most points in any quarter in any playoff game of his career. He added four threes on 8-13 shooting, but the rest of the Cavs shot 3-11 for a total of six points in the frame. LeBron finished the night with 42 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds.
LeBron scored 21 of the Cavs' 27 points in the 1st quarter 😳 pic.twitter.com/jqhzffEJbF
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 16, 2018
Bringing LeBron to a Halt
If it wasn’t for the valiant efforts of Jaylen Brown, the Cavs could have ran away with it early. Jaylen led the charge with 14 points in the first quarter, finishing with a team high 23 to go along with seven rebounds and three assists.
Jayson Tatum picked up where Jaylen left off. He started the second quarter with nine quick points to keep the team afloat as LeBron continued to stay hot. Towards the end of the quarter, LeBron took a hard shot to the jaw and had to leave the floor to get checked out. He was quickly cleared to play and returned before the end of the period. Meanwhile, the Cavs built their lead up to double digits for the first time in the series. Marcus Smart made some big plays with under a minute left in the quarter and the Celtics trimmed the Cavalier lead to seven.
It Takes a Village
Terry Rozier was the hot hand in the third. He overcame a rocky start by producing 14 points on his way to an 18 point and five rebound night. The momentum started to shift in favor of the Celtics, as the team dominated the period in the open floor. They barraged the Cavs with 36 points in the quarter while creating havoc on the defensive side of the ball. Marcus Morris was huge, hitting a tough and one with 5:14 to play in the quarter to tie the game up. He took a moment to wave his hands in the air, gesturing the garden faithful to their feet as the crowd roared with en electric energy.
Less than a minute later Marcus Smart canned a three from the top of the arch to give the Celtics their first lead since 3-2. It became a lead they would not relinquish.
Marcus Smart was absolutely crucial in the second half. He provided an adrenaline shot of energy that infected the whole team. Smart gave the Celtics all the momentum necessary to continue pouring in basket after basket, relentlessly attacking the teeth of the Cavalier defense. He finished with 11 points, nine assists, five rebounds, four steals, and a team high +/- of +21.
Marcus Smart ladies and gentleman. pic.twitter.com/qaWTH297tn
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 16, 2018
Smart’s efforts must have particularly affected Al Horford. After an eight point and five rebound fourth quarter, Al put the Cavaliers to rest. He finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the game.
Horford’s biggest moment came with just under four minutes to go. After Al set a pick and rolled for an alley-oop. J,R. Smith gave him a shove in the back on the way up. Consequently, Smith got issued a Flagrant 1 on the play. Horford hit both free throws and on the ensuing possession tacked three more to put the Celtics up 12. All hopes of a comeback were all but over for the Cavs.
It was a team effort fueled victory for the Celtics. Four different players stepped up and led the team in scoring in each quarter for the game. The team also did a great job of handling the ball, giving up only eight turnovers to the Cavaliers’ 15.
The Cavs gave LeBron a bit more help in the game, mostly from fellow All-Star Kevin Love, who produced a 22 point and 15 rebound double double. Tristan Thompson finished with an eight point and seven rebound effort, and Kyle Korver gave the team 11 points off the bench.
A True Competitor
After the game Brad Stevens gushed about Marcus Smart and what he brings to the table for the team. “He’s as tough as they come. A true competitor. He matches his intensity with a physical toughness. We are really glad he is on our team”. Marcus Smart continues to be the hot glue guy for this Celtics team. The Celtics have gone an impressive 8-2 since inserting him back into the lineup. He seems to never fail to make the big plays down the stretch of games, not afraid of any moment and willing to bump and scrape to win every possession.
Stevens finished his press conference stating that the team will, “have to be tougher and even more resilient as we move to Cleveland”.
History will be on the their side, as the team is 37-0 after leading a best of seven series 2-0.
Game 3 will take place Saturday night at 8:30 pm. The Celtics will look to take a commanding 3-0 lead as LeBron will do anything to claw the Cavaliers back into the series.