Cleveland 94, Boston 107

Highlights courtesy of MLG Highlights

3 things

1. At the beginning of the telecast the announcers spoke of how just hours before tipoff the city of Boston experienced a pretty nasty shower making conditions less than optimal for those making their way to the arena. I bet that every single one of almost 19,000 at TD Garden will agree that the storm their beloved Celtics had to endure in the first quarter of tonight’s game far outweighed the one the roughed to get to the arena. But once again, where most teams would simply fold the Cs used their short lived yet intense adversity to harden themselves even more as they not only fought their way back into the game they dared to take over late on their way to a win giving them a 2-0 advantage as they prepare for a Saturday night meeting at the Q.

Leading six Celtics scoring in double figures Jaylen Brown put up 23 points for the second consecutive game on 50% shooting to go along with 7 boards and 3 assists. If I’m being honest here despite the scoring output matching in the first two matchups I have to say his showing tonight was even more impressive if for no other reason than the stakes being considerably higher here given the start of the night. Either way I stand by my previous assessment that he gets better and better every game. More explosive, more confident, more cerebral and more welcoming of the physical and mental meat grinder of a series this is becoming.

2. If this is true of Brown it’s true of at least 95% of the rest of this team. After bearing witness (get it?) to another one of LeBron James’ classic quarters (you know I’m getting all up into this later) it would’ve been almost understandable for the Cs to sulk, mentally check out and start prepping for game 3. Not on Brad’s watch. First thing to mention is that the Bronsplosion didn’t do as much damage as it usually does because they held the rest of the Cavs to 6 points in the period.

Defensively the Cs recovered nicely only allowing 39 second half which coincided with their offense taking off. This game was far muckier than the first but Boston still managed to get really good production from most of their guys. “Scary” Terry Rozier struck fear into the hearts of the Cavs after a quiet scoring outing in game 1 with pouring in 18 points to go along with 5 boards and Jayson Tatum was solid again with 11 and 3 and saw both guys playing a large part in keeping the LeBronnaires from getting hot.

This game was far more chippier and physical than the preceding one and I expect it to only escalate as the series wears on. Needless to say toughness will be needed to survive this series. Luck would have it that the Celtics has it in spades. The decision to start “Big” Al Horford paid off again as he put together a solid all around game posting another double double with 15 points, 10 boards and 4 assists as well as a pair of steals and blocks. With the Cavs ratcheting up the intensity Horford met it and matched it at every turn.

Where Big Al matched them Marcus Morris sonned them. Morris played one of the most throwback games I’ve seen in our current era complete with roaring in Tristan Thompson’s face after making a lay in complete with a hard foul. It gave me chills y’all. He finished with 12 and 5 and although he didn’t have a great night shooting the ball here (most of the Cs didn’t honestly) he arguably had the greatest impact over the tone of the game. When we think of the best versatility guys in the names of Draymond Green and Paul George come to mind and rightfully so. But I honestly think that we tend to give Marcus Smart short shrift when it comes to this. Smart hustled his way to an 11-5-9 line with four steals. Smart was as much of an irritant as anyone draped in white and green outworking LeBron on several possessions as the game wore on. Aron Baynes was also solid in his relief role with 9 and 6 including a three that knocked the wind out of Cleveland’s chest.

This one wasn’t pretty folks. Boston only shot 43% from the field and 32% from deep. Yet this should worry the Cavs far more than it does Boston. Sure it’s not a healthy approach to take in beating LeBron but if it’s works that just means another way to win has been unlocked. We talk all the time about certain players possessing cheat codes that gives them a leg up over their opponents. I think what we’re seeing here is the rare instance in which a coach has the cheat codes that can be weaponized in everyone on his roster and if this isn’t horrifying af to all opposition then I’m not sure what game they’ve been watching. In case you haven’t been counting, brains – 2 brawn – 0.

3. They came out ready, well HE came out ready. LeBron James tied his career playoff best in a quarter with 21 in the first frame as it appeared that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be getting back on track. Sadly, this hope was short lived as the Celtics gradually wore them down. LeBron put up a triple double with 42 points, 10 boards and 12 assists but as per usual it was the supporting cast that came up WAY short here. James’ first quarter mirrored the opening period display from Game 2 in the Indiana series in which he scored 16 of the first 29 points in the game and 20 for the quarter. And even then they were only able to eek out a three point victory.

However, with 3:50 left in the second quarter with Cleveland in command still with a 47-36 lead Bron suffered a strained neck after colliding with Boston’s Jayson Tatum’s shoulder. Although he only stayed out for two game minutes he wasn’t quite the same after that. And this spelled doom for the Cavs supporting cast. Well, most of them.

Kevin Love did his part to lift the Cavs up with another solid performance tallying 22 points and 15 boards in what were the only real signs of life on offense aside from Kyle Korver’s 11 points all of which were a part of that big first half before fading into obscurity in a second half that really could have used him. After factoring in Tristan “TrashGawd” Thompson’s 8 and 7 effort as he was reintroduced into the starting lineup it gets really grim form here.

J.R. “Pipe” Smith was held scoreless as he missed all seven attempts and George Hill looked as bad as he did in Game one with a piss poor three point performance in 33 minutes. Whatever goodwill Jeff Green created on the defensive end was easily wiped away by his 5 turnovers -17 rating. Larry Nance, Jr. is a good energy guy but he just isn’t proficient enough yet on offense to justify giving him extended minutes and after a promising Game 1 Rodney Hood regressed back to his mean with only one field goal made.

Look, LeBron doesn’t need much. As evidenced by Cleveland squeaking past an Indy team that had them on the ropes this holds true. But he needs SOMETHING. K Love is cool and all but if you can only put three scorers on the floor at one time at the very most these dudes are gonna eat that shit up, it doesn’t matter if one is LeBron James. They’ve proven to be too smart, too intense and too consistent for this to matter. But if Cleveland can get other guys going then they stand a punchers chance at getting back in this series. With a few days in between the next meeting there needs to be some sort of soul searching. This has shaded of 2008 written all over it thus far and if you’re familiar with recent NBA history you know that one side is thrilled to hear this and one side definitely isn’t. I’ll let you guess.

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