When they needed him to come through he was there, just as he almost always is. LeBron James scored 15 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter to give his Cleveland Cavaliers a commanding 2-0 series lead on the Boston Celtics. Here’s a look at how King James left his mark on the final 12 minutes.
it wasn’t always peaches for James and crew, who were tested with another valiant effort from the underdog C’s. Prior to the fourth quarter explosion James was 5-for-13 from the field with 15 points. Rugged swingman Jae Crowder did a solid job on defense against James in the first 36 minutes just as he did the entire 48 of Game 1.
The Celtics also doubled James when he was anywhere below the free throw line, mostly in the post. This made it difficult for LBJ to find his teammates for kickouts on the perimeter. James ended up with six turnovers to further bolster the defensive effort of the Celtics.
Despite that adjustment by Brad Stevens and the Boston staff James bullied his way inside the paint, where he went 7-of-12 for 14 points. In his big final stanza James was 4-for-6 inside five feet. If he continues to get most of his shots at point-blank range the Celtics can forget about it.
James wasn’t the only Cav to contribute on the offensive end. Kyrie Irving followed up his nearly historic playoff debut with 26 points (8-for-18) and six assists, also the big Russian Timofey Mozgov turned in 16 points. Kevin Love chipped in with 13 and this incredible, out of nowhere alley-oop that showed that piano on his back might not be so heavy.
During the post-game interview on TNT James acknowledged that he and his comrades will have to play better when they hit the road for Beantown for Game 3. The Cavs had 18 turnovers to 18 assists. They were also unusually sub par from the three-point stripe, shooting only 24 percent (7-for-29 ).
If Cleveland wants to quiet that gregarious Boston crowd J.R. Smith will need to be his usual Cleveland J.R. Smith self. He got himself into foul trouble in Game 1 and he shot terribly in Game 2 (3-for-12, 1-for-8 from deep).
Give Stevens and the Celtics a lot of credit for forcing the Cavs to play playoff basketball from the jump. This isn’t your average No. 2 vs. No. 7 matchup. As previously noted the Celtics have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference since Feb. 2 and Stevens has shown to be the basketball Chuck Jones when drawing up plays.
Playing with this type of intensity from the get go will prepare the likes of Irving, Love and Tristan Thompson ready for that probable Chicago series and whatever there is to come.
I had to make this point on Twitter to a Cavs fan who was expecting an easy sweep. This is a blessing in disguise. An easy 4-0 sweep would do nothing to harden the playoff muscle of the Cavs. It also gives rookie head coach David Blatt a chance to get experience making adjustments and figuring out his late game rotations.
Don’t worry Clevelanders, the Wine and Gold will win and probably sweep the Celtics but you should also thank them that they aren’t making it easy. It’s not good enough just to win they must Smith Barney their way to this series win.
(All stats and charts from NBA.com)