Sometimes, teamwork does the job just as well.
On Tuesday night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, Cavaliers star LeBron James almost overcame a focused, disciplined Boston defense with 21 first-quarter points and a 42-point, 12-assist, 10-rebound triple-double. The majority of Cleveland's points unsurprisingly came from James and Kevin Love, but even a triple-double from James and double-double from Love wasn't enough to fuel the Cavs. But starters Thompson, JR Smith and George Hill combined for just 11 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
Those were the only three players to score in double figures for the Cavs. I felt like we played great defense, but the foul was called on Al Horford.
The Boston Celtics have jumped out to an unexpected 2-0 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston fought back to win 107-94.
Boston is 8-2 since Smart's return and has the Cavaliers facing their first 2-0 series hole since 2008, when they lost 4-3 to the Celtics in the conference semifinals. Conventional wisdom said that the Cavaliers would bounce back as they did against the Pacers and play better. One gets the feeling that if he'd gotten more minutes, the Cavs would have been able to keep the game closer, or perhaps won it. Thompson's one-on-one defense was exemplary, as was his help defense, and the way he crashed the offensive glass (he had 4 offensive rebounds, which fetched him all of his points) was an asset to their offense overall. "But if there is anybody I would put my money on, it would be this group", Brown said.
That was it. That's when the Cavaliers transformed from a team closing in on another shot to steal a game the way they did against Toronto and in to a team that could sense a second straight loss.
Smart performed as a tone-setter, finishing with an all-around line of 11 points, nine assists, five rebounds and four steals.
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His 42 points marked his fifth 40-point game of these playoffs.
"I'm going to go home tonight and see my three kids, see my family, recalibrate, see my mom", James said after the game. They also didn't have to give in to Irving's trade demands, no matter how strong the threat appeared at the time.
They've seen this act before.
Cavaliers forward LeBron James said he just needed a chance to "recalibrate" when he left in the second quarter Tuesday night after taking a shot to the jaw from Boston's Jayson Tatum. Marcus Smart got in Smith's face after Smith pushed Horford in the back to prevent a layup.
"We've got to come out swinging", Lue said.
The Cavaliers led for much of the first half and carried a 55-48 advantage into main interval but Boston outscored Cleveland by 14 in the third quarter to turn their seven-point deficit into an 84-77 advantage at TD Garden. With Kyrie Irving in Boston and Cleveland lacking other drivers and penetrators, the Cavs demanded an unhealthy amount of shot creation from James, whose usage rating skyrocketed.
"We gotta be tougher", Lue said. "(Expletive) we're doing what it takes.