By Travis Babcock
Grit, determination, and a never quit attitude. 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 an all around team effort from start to finish.
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, disrupting the offensive flow of the Celtics and 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 4 threes on 8-13 shooting, but the rest of the Cavs shot 3-11 for a total of 6 points in the frame. Lebron finished the night with 42 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds.
If it wasn’t for the valiant efforts of Jaylen Brown the Cavs may have been able to run 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 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
Jayson Tatum picked up where Jaylen left off, starting the 2nd quarter with 9 quick points, keeping 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, as 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 were able to trim the Cavalier lead to 7.
Terry Rozier was the hot hand in the 3rd, overcoming a rocky start by producing 14 points on his way to an 18 point 5 rebound night. The momentum started to shift in favor of the Celtics, as the team dominated the period in the open floor, barraging 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 1 with 5:14 to play in the quarter that tied 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, a lead they would not relinquish.
Marcus Smart was absolutely crucial in the second half. Smart provided an adrenaline shot of energy that infected the whole team and gave the Celtics all the momentum necessary to continue pouring in basket after basket, relentlessly attacking the teeth of the Cavalier defense. Smart finished with 11 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, and a team high +/- of +21.
Smart’s efforts must have particularly affected Al Horford, who put the Cavaliers to rest with an 8 point 5 rebound 4th quarter, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the game.
Horford’s biggest moment came with just under 4 minutes to go. Horford set a pick and rolled for an alley oop. Jr Smith gave Horford a shove in the back on the way up as Al went tumbling to the ground. Smith got issued a Flagrant 1 on the play, Horford hit both free throws and on the ensuing possession gets a layup and 1 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, as four different players 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 8 turnovers to the Cavaliers’ 15.
The Cavs gave Lebron a bit more help in the game, mostly from fellow all star Kevin Love, producing a 22 point 15 rebound double double.Tristan Thompson finished with an 8 point 7 rebound effort, and Kyle Korver gave the team 11 points off the bench.
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, as they 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 7 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 everything he can to claw the Cavaliers back into the series.