2018 East Finals: Celtics hustle harder to overcome a huge performance from LeBron James

2. Boston Celtics 107 – 4. Cleveland Cavaliers 94 (Celtics lead 2-0)

Late in the second quarter, the Boston Celtics just scored a basket to cut an 11-point Cleveland Cavaliers lead down to single digits. The Cavs pushed the ball up court with time winding down in the first half. James tried to fire an outlet pass ahead but Marcus Smart intercepted the pass and passed it to a wide open Marcus Morris for an easy dunk.

Cleveland’s lead was whittled down right before halftime. That play was when the Celtics began to fight back.

After a humiliating loss in Game 1, everyone expected LeBron James and the Cavaliers to come out stronger. They did. James was magnificent in the first quarter of Game 2. His jumper was on point to start the game after it was missing in the last game. James buried back-to-back-to-back three-pointers midway through the quarter to power the Cavaliers. He then hit a ridiculous turnaround, fadeaway jumper to beat the shot clock buzzer.

At that point he outscored Boston 19-15. He finished the first quarter with 21 of the Cavaliers 27 points. Cleveland jumped out to the lead and they built a double-digit cushion in the second period.

Apparently that was their best shot. Boston absorbed that blow and came out after halftime with more energy and purpose. Smart set the tone with the sequence near the end of the first half. He was everywhere in the game. Smart finished with 11 points, five boards, nine assists and four steals.

Following the lead of Smart was his back court partner, Terry Rozier. The second-year guard had an awful first half. His steady production was nowhere to be found. But he looked downright scary for the Cavaliers in the third period. Rozier led the takeover in the third quarter as he scored 14 points in that span. He wasn’t afraid of anyone on the Cleveland roster, including James, who he dunked on in one fast break sequence. That slam gave Boston a three-point lead and got the Garden crowd rocking.

The Celtics scored 36 points in the third quarter as they took a seven-point lead heading to the final period. Everything was going Bostons way. Marcus Morris was flexing on Tristan Thompson. Al Horford did all the little things. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were scoring easily. Smart was diving for loose balls the Cavs didn’t want.

Boston took control in the third quarter and never let go. Cleveland had a great start but that was all they had. The Celtics finished strong and took a 2-0 series lead.

The Celtics did exactly what was expected of them. They took care of business on their home court. But somehow it was more than that. Boston sent a statement to Cleveland. James has owned the conference for seven years. Now, the Celtics look ready. They’re not afraid of the King anymore.

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