Vir­tual must-win

LeBron, Cava­liers have Celtics reel­ing head­ing into tonight’s Game 2

Cape Breton Post - - Sports -

LeBron James did pretty much what­ever he wanted to against the Celtics in the Cava­liers’ dom­i­nat­ing win in Game 1 of the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals.

He was ef­fi­cient, scor­ing from the out­side, rolling down­hill and get­ting to the rim at will, pass­ing to team­mates and locking down Bos­ton’s scor­ers when called upon.

With home-court ad­van­tage gone, the Celtics face a vir­tual must-win Game 2 tonight. Bos­ton must find a way to slow down James while not get­ting eaten up by a sup­port­ing cast, which other than Kevin Love’s big game, didn’t pro­duce at its usual high rate.

Oh, and there’s ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion for Cleve­land — now 9-0 in these play­offs — which could earn an­other long rest if it makes quick work of the Celtics.

But here’s the rub for topseeded Bos­ton on Fri­day night: James said he wasn’t even play­ing at peak con­di­tion af­ter Cleve­land’s 10-day lay­off be­tween rounds.

“I felt OK last night,” James said Thurs­day. “I knew I wouldn’t feel that great af­ter the game, and I don’t feel that great right now . ... But I should be much bet­ter (Fri­day).”

Bet­ter than 38 points, nine re­bounds and seven as­sists? Good luck with that Bos­ton.

Still, James said the Cavs are men­tally pre­par­ing for the Celtics’ best shot in Game 2.

“There’s go­ing to be some ad­just­ments made from both sides. We have to be ready for it,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously, we don’t know the ex­act ad­just­ments, but we know they’re go­ing to make ad­just­ments. That’s what good teams do, and we have to be ready for what­ever they bring to the ta­ble.”

Most of the dam­age in Game 1 was done by only two play­ers — James and Love. Kyrie Irv­ing had just 11 points on 4-of-11 shoot­ing, and usu­ally de­pend­able sharp­shoot­ers J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver were a com­bined 2 for 8 as coach Ty­ronn Lue used a dif­fer­ent sec­ond unit to start the sec­ond quar­ter with James rest­ing.

A loss Fri­day would also leave Bos­ton with the daunt­ing propo­si­tion of hav­ing to win four out of five games to take the se­ries — a nearly im­pos­si­ble task against a team that since James re­turned to Cleve­land in 2014-15 has a 33-4 play­off record against Eastern Con­fer­ence op­po­nents.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said his op­ti­mism re­mains high, and that he was “re­ally en­cour­aged” by his team’s per­for­mance over the fi­nal 18 min­utes of the game. It in­cluded get­ting within 11 points with less than 2 min­utes to play.

But if the Celtics are go­ing to pick them­selves up, it must start with All-Star Isa­iah Thomas, who scored 17 points, but had to work for ev­ery sin­gle one just to fin­ish 7 for 19 from the field. He also had a teamhigh four turnovers — an­other red flag for Bos­ton’s prospects.

For his part, Thomas said there doesn’t need to be a lot of soul search­ing.

“There’s noth­ing to fig­ure out,” Thomas said. “They play their tra­di­tional way. I mean, they def­i­nitely showed a few bod­ies that was ag­gres­sive on me, but that’s noth­ing I haven’t seen this whole year. I mean, I’ve seen it all ... I’ve just got to be more ag­gres­sive, make plays, make shots, and go from there.”


Cleve­land Cava­liers for­ward LeBron James (23) drives to the bas­ket as Bos­ton Celtics guard Avery Bradley, left, and for­ward Ger­ald Green try to de­fend dur­ing Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals on Wed­nes­day in Bos­ton.

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