James fires up, but Celtics win

Boston come from behind to lead East Finals 2-0 as Cavs coach demands tougher attitude

BOSTON • A big solo performance from a star player can win games for his team, but it is not always the case. Sometimes, teamwork does the job just as well.

On Tuesday at the TD Garden, the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James had a 42-point triple-double but his side still fell to the Celtics 107-94 as Boston took a 2-0 lead in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Eastern Conference Finals.

Kevin Love added 22 points and 15 rebounds, but Kyle Korver (11 points) was the only other Cleveland player to score 10 or more points. Starters Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and George Hill combined for just 11 points.

The Celtics, on the other hand, used a balanced attack as six players reached double figures.

Notably, Jaylen Brown scored 23 points, Terry Rozier added 18 points, while Al Horford finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, who improved to 8-0 this post-season at home.

The Celtics, who overcame a double-digit deficit, have never blown a 2-0 lead in the post-season.

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket against Marcus Morris of the Boston Celtics during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Boston fought back to win 107-94. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Brown felt that the team cannot let up in Game 3 in Cleveland on Saturday because star forward James usually raises his game another notch after a defeat.

He said: "We need tremendous focus. He (James is one of the) best players of all time. But if there is anybody I would put my money on, it would be this group."

Marcus Smart, who had 11 points, scored a three-pointer with 4min 34sec left in the third quarter, which gave the Celtics a 72-71 lead after they had trailed by 11.

It was their first lead since they were up 3-2 only 49 seconds in. Boston were on top 84-77 entering the fourth quarter.

Crucially, Cleveland had 15 turnovers leading to 13 points for Boston, who had just six turnovers.

James also delivered 12 assists and 10 rebounds, scoring 21 of the team's 27 points in the first quarter.

His 42 points marked his fifth 40-point game of these play-offs. He had just 15 points and missed all five of his three-point attempts in the 108-83 defeat in Game 1.

"We have the opportunity to go back home and take home court," he said. "They did what they had to do to protect home court and now it is our time as well. We will see what we are made of on Saturday."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of the team's approach to defending James: "We're just trying to make it as hard as possible. We've got a lot of different guys guarding him.

"Jaylen started the game on him, (Marcus) Morris is guarding him a ton. I thought Semi (Ojeleye) did a good job on the couple of possessions he guarded him, which is really hard - to just come off the bench, not in the flow of the game, and put a body in front of him."

The Cavaliers sagged in the second half, where they were outscored 59-39 and that did not please their coach Tyronn Lue.

  • +27

    Points improvement from Cavaliers star LeBron James' 15 points in the Eastern Conference Finals opener against Boston.


    Points Boston scored off Cleveland's 15 turnovers.

"We got to be tougher mentally and physically," he said.

"Down the stretch we took some bad shots. We didn't close the half (the) way we wanted to and they had a big third quarter.

"In the third quarter, we had some miscommunication on defence and they scored some easy baskets."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2018, with the headline 'James fires up, but Celtics win'. Print Edition | Subscribe