Behind a humongous team effort, the Boston Celtics pulled out a massive 107-94 Game 2 win in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Tyrone Lue decided to abandon the game plan of starting four shooters around LeBron, and instead placed Tristan Thompson in the starting lineup for the second game. Thompson has had a history of dominating Al Horford in the post, specifically when he was still at Atlanta.
On top of that, Kyle Korver was just too much of a liability on the defensive end in Game 1 for Lue to start him again. The Celtics have too many guys that can bully him in the post on switches, and attack him off the dribble. Jaylen Brown finished with 23 points, and most of them occurred on drives to the hoop.
Despite that, Thompson played small for his size in Game 2, accumulating only eight points and seven rebounds. Horford had an off game offensively, but still played aggressive, and made a huge and-one in the final few minutes of the game. Big Al finished with 15 points and ten rebounds on 5-13 shooting.
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The difference was effort
In the end, Boston just wanted the game more. Cleveland finished the first half up seven, and LeBron had 21 points at the end of the first quarter. At first, it looked like one of those typical revenge games from the king.
Instead, Brad Stevens made adjustments, and the C’s were able to hold him to only 20 points for the rest of the contest. What’s crazy is most of his points in the first were threes (he had four in the quarter). All four of those threes were well defended too, either by Marcus Smart, Brown, or Horford. Jayson Tatum had a little trouble on both ends to begin the game as well, which was shocking considering his usual calm composure.
The script flipped in the second half however, where Boston came out with more energy and passion. They locked down on defense, and didn’t allow as many easy cuts to the rim like in the first half. Smart made huge defensive plays, and there was a moment where he saved the ball from going out of bounds, got up, and tipped in a missed shot. That’s the type of situation where momentum can switch in an instant.
J.R. Smith and Thompson started loosing their composure too, especially with Smith giving Horford a dirty shove to the back on a layup in the fourth quarter. Things were getting chippy, but the C’s kept their head on the game plan.
Coach Stevens stuck to his ideologies
Stevens stuck with Marcus Morris in the starting lineup, which was a gamble considering Boston was sacrificing rebounding. It payed off however, wth Morris preventing Thompson from getting too comfortable in the post. He only finished with 12 points, but scored a mammoth and-one that flipped the momentum Boston’s way.
Aaron Baynes held his own when he was out on the floor too, obtaining six rebounds and shooting 4-7 from the field.
Overall, the Celtics unsurprisingly got into Cleveland’s head, and prevented the role players form having a bounce back night. According to ESPN, outside of LeBron (who shot 16-29 from the field), the Cavs as a team shot 21-51, or 40 percent.
James can’t be happy with his team just standing around on 50-50 balls, and allowing open threes over and over again. It’s almost as if they forgot that it’s playoff time.
For a squad that prides themselves on their ability to make threes, Cleveland continued to struggle once again. According to The Washington Post, outside of LeBron and Kevin Love, the Cavs shot 3-14 from three. Remove Korver, who was hot in the first half, and Cleveland topped out at 1-9 from three.
If Smith, Jeff Green, and Jordan Clarkson don’t step up soon, the clock may strike twelve for LeBron and company. Boston is 37-0 in playoff series when up 2-0.
Hopefully, that trend can continue. They have to go through Cleveland’s home court to find out.