The Boston Celtics took a commanding series lead Tuesday night, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 107-94 behind 23 points from Jaylen Brown and a magnificent 11-9-5-4 stat line from Marcus Smart. The Celtics outscored the Cavs in the 3rd quarter 36-22 to invert the game.
It was a tale of two quarters for the Celtics comparing their Game 1 haymaker with the torrid start of LeBron James tonight. The Cleveland star was 4-7 from downtown for 21 points in first quarter, tying a playoff career high for the star in the playoffs. However, Jaylen Brown was up to the task, contributing his own 13 first quarter points on a similar downtown shooting clinic (3-5 from 3 in the 1st) as the Celtics weathered the storm early to end the quarter 27-23.The formerly dormant sharpshooter Kyle Korver came alive in the 2nd quarter, scoring 11 points to give the Cavs a lift. However, the Celtics sustained on a run on nine straight points by Jayson Tatum to keep the Celtics in contact.
James caught a shoulder from Tatum late in the 2nd quarter and went to the locker room he returned several minutes later with a neck strain diagnosis, but no fear of concussion.
There was a surprise appearance by the Dancing Bear late in the 2nd quarter, delighting fans, but he was replaced by Greg Monroe who got to the line, but struggled in pick and roll defensive possessions. The Cavaliers and Celtics traded buckets down the stretch of the first half, with the gaining and losing a double digit lead with regularity. It was an excited end to the half for the Celtics who got six straight points from Marcus Morris on three straight assists from Marcus Smart including one off an impressive interception from the wily guard with 19 second to play in the half.
Terry Rozier came alive in the 3rd quarter, scoring 14 points in the 3rd as the Celtics tied the game back up at 69 apiece on a big Marcus Morris 3 point play that resulted in double technical fouls on Morris and Tristian Thompson. The Celtics got a big go-ahead three from Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier got a thunderous dunk in transition to push the Celtics lead to three with 4:07 left in the 3rd. The Cavs would only score six points in the remainder as the Celtics ran wild and pushed their advantage to 84-77 to close the 3rd.
After a couple of scoreless minutes early in the 4th, James secured an ‘and-1’ drive against Monroe that saw Moose pulled from the game. An unreal diving steal by Marcus Smart contributed to the Celtics highlight real. A five point, two assist stretch for James cut the Celtics lead to 6 with 4:41 remaining in the 4th.
However, the Celtics came out of the ensuing time out getting Al Horford to the free throw line twice on possessions sandwiched around a JR Smith miss. The second foul would be a Flagrant-I foul by Smith for shoving Horford in the back while in the air. This would end in a loud, close conversation and shoving match between Smith and Smart who had to be separated which resulted in double technicals. Horford would make the free throws and convert a basket on the ensuing possession to send the lead to 12.
The Cavaliers would never recover and the Celtics would coast to victory.
The two teams will now get three complete days off before Game 3 moves to Cleveland on Saturday at 8:30pm ET.