Wrap-Up — There’s stealing homecourt advantage from an opponent, and then there’s what the Cavaliers did to the Celtics on Friday night in Boston.
The Wine and Gold took a two-touchdown lead after one quarter and things just got worse for Boston from there – much worse – as Cleveland took a 41-point lead into intermission (the largest halftime edge in NBA Playoff history) and barely looked back in the second half, handing one of the NBA’s proudest franchises a 130-86 thumping at TD Garden.
The Cavaliers went wire-to-wire over Boston in Game 1 and dismantled the Celtics at home in the final meeting of the regular season before that. Now in a 2-0 hole against a team that hasn’t lost a Playoff game since last June, Brad Stevens’ squad will now have to find some answers quickly with the Eastern Conference Finals shifting back to Cleveland.
Cleveland set franchise marks for most points scored in a Playoff game (130) and biggest margin of victory (38) – running their postseason win streak to 13 straight games – tying the 1988-89 Los Angeles Lakers for the longest run of all-time.
Friday night’s beating in Beantown was thorough.
Offensively, Cleveland shot 57 percent from the floor, canned 19 three-pointers, more than doubled Boston’s production on the fastbreak, 24-11, and at one point led by an even 50 points.
Defensively, the Cavs held Boston to 37 percent shooting, forced 21 turnovers and held the Conference’s top scorer, Isaiah Thomas, to just two points on 0-for-6 shooting. Thomas didn’t return to action in the second half after suffering a hip injury before intermission.
Once again, LeBron James led the way – finishing with 30 points, going 12-for-18 from the floor, 4-of-6 from long-distance, adding seven assists, four boards, four steals and three blocks in just three quarters of work.
”(LeBron) is playing at an unbelievable level and he’s really setting the tone early for us in the games,” praised Tyronn Lue. “When we’re getting stops defensively and we’re guarding the way we’ve been guarding, he’s able to get out in transition and get to the basket. And when he’s making his three-point shot, you’re in for a long night.”
Kevin Love – who, like the rest of the starters, sat out the fourth quarter – doubled-up for the second straight contest, tallying 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting, including a 4-of-9 mark from deep, and leading both squads with 12 rebounds in the win.
Kyrie Irving rediscovered his shooting stroke on Friday night, adding 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting.
”We don’t take this for granted at all, I’m going to continue to say it, because we understand how valuable it is to win on the road or win any games in the Playoffs,” said Irving. “Now we put our focus to Game 3 and prepare for a home court game against a great team like the Celtics. It’s going to be tough.”
The Big Three combine for 74 points as the Cavs cruise in Game 2.
For the Celtics, Jaylen Brown led the squad in scoring with 19 points off the bench, going 7-of-11 from the floor. Through the first two games of the series, the Boston rookie has been their most impressive player – going a combined 12-for-18 from the floor, leading the Celts with nine boards in Game 1.
Brad Stevens went with a lineup change to start Game 2 – replacing Amir Johnson with Gerald Green – but it obviously didn’t make much difference, with Cleveland piling up 72 points before halftime.
”Our team is in a great groove, and I’m happy to be a part of that groove,” said LeBron following the lopsided victory. “At the end of the day, we want to try to put ourselves in position to win every game – that’s the goal. Can you do that? Sometimes you come out with an L, but it’s how you learn from those experiences that’s going to help you out the next time. We’re in a good groove as a team, and we want to try to continue that going home.”
Turning Point — This one got away from the Celtics quickly – with the Cavaliers showing now mercy in the second quarter after taking a double-digit lead after one.
It’s impossible to single out a particular run because the Wine and Gold simply unleashed a 12-minute avalanche on both ends – shooting 58 percent in the period and canning six three-pointers while holding the Celtics to 25 percent shooting and forcing eight turnovers.
By the three-minute mark of the second quarter, the Cavaliers had outscored Boston, 34-8, in the period – upping their lead to an even 40.
When J.R. Smith hit a twisting 16-foot fadeaway at the halftime buzzer to put the Wine and Gold up at half, 72-31, winning was a mere formality for Tyronn Lue’s squad the rest of the way.
By the Numbers – 8 … straight games that LeBron James has tallied at least 30 points during Cleveland’s current postseason run, including nine of Cleveland’s 10 Playoff games in 2017. James also tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, having now posted 10 straight postseason games scoring at least 25 points and shooting 50 percent from the field.
Quotable – Boston’s Jaylen Brown, on what happened in Friday night’s Game 2 at Boston …
”We got our ass kicked.”
Up Next — With the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals in the books – and the Cavaliers coming home having thoroughly dominated the Celtics – the series shifts back to Cleveland for next two. Game 3 goes down on Sunday night at The Q, with Game 4 set for Tuesday. If the series continues beyond that point, the Cavs return to Boston for Game 5 next Thursday, come home for Game 6 on Saturday night and return to Beantown the following Monday if the ECF goes the distance.
Calls of the Game