The Boston Celtics hurled everything they had at the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night, and still, it was not enough.
LeBron James, who was relatively quiet for the first seven quarters of the teams’ first-round playoff series, exploded in the fourth quarter of Game 2, scoring 15 points in the final frame as the Cavs held off the Celtics 99-91 to take a 2-0 series lead.
RIGHTING THE WRONGS
One of the biggest knocks on the Celtics’ Game 1 effort was their futility on the glass. They quickly remedied that Tuesday. Boston’s seven first-quarter offensive rebounds matched their total for all of Game 1, and the C’s owned a 9-3 edge in offensive boards at halftime.
In fact, there was a lot to like about the Celtics’ first-half performance. Tyler Zeller again started hot with nine points on 4-of-6 shooting and five rebounds. Jae Crowder was a terror on the defensive end against LeBron James, forcing James to take the majority of his shots from the perimeter. Avery Bradley was all over Game 1 top scorer Kyrie Irving, and he bounced back nicely from his rough shooting performance the other night, hitting three of his first six shots for eight first-half points.
Isaiah Thomas had nine points through the first two quarters, but he also turned the ball over twice and posted a first-half rating of minus-10 — by far the worst of any player on either team.
JUST TOO GOOD
As well as the Celtics played during the first 24 minutes, they still trailed 51-50 at the break. The Cavs displayed their ability to pile up points in a hurry, posting scoring runs of 10-2 and 13-3 to wipe away any leads the Celtics were able to build.
James, Kyrie Irving and Timofey Mozgov all reached double figures before halftime, and Mozgov also made his presence felt defensively with four first-half blocks.
The Cavs came out firing in the third, too, scoring 17 of the first 21 points in the frame to stretch their advantage to double digits. The highlight of that particular run came in the form of a halfcourt, reverse alley-oop from James to Kevin Love.
Oh, and this one was pretty nifty, too:
Boston didn’t do itself any favors over this span, committing four personal fouls in the first two and a half minutes of the third.
The Celtics managed to stay within striking distance, however, finishing off the third quarter on an 8-2 run.
Boston seemed to settle down after Thomas checked back into the game at the 6:33 mark of the third. The reserve point guard assisted on consecutive baskets shortly after reentering, then beat Irving on this strong drive to the rim:
Cleveland’s lead was seven to start the fourth quarter, and Thomas reeled off five points as part of a 9-2 run that cut it to two. He also made Love look foolish after picking off a pass in the defensive end.
Thomas finished with 22 points and seven assists, and Boston’s bench outscored Cleveland’s 51-7. But James ultimately proved too much for the C’s. The Cavs star finished with 30 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two blocks, including a critical one on Zeller with less than two minutes to play.
Irving also turned in another stellar performance, finishing with 26 points, six assists and five rebounds, and Tristan Thompson failed to score a point but grabbed 11 rebounds off the bench — one shy of Evan Turner’s game-high 12.
Irving and James scored all 24 of the Cavs’ fourth-quarter points.
Playoff basketball returns to Boston. Game 3 — now a virtual must-win for the Celtics — is set for Thursday night at TD Garden.
Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images