Cavs look to help banged up James

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - NBA -

LeBron James re­cov­ered quickly from his neck strain. There’s still too much stress on his back.

He’s car­ry­ing the Cava­liers. It’s a spring­time tra­di­tion.

As has been the case for much of his 15-year ca­reer, James has had to per­form at an ex­tra­or­di­nary level through­out these play­offs, most re­cently in Cleveland’s Game 2 loss at Bos­ton.

Bounc­ing back af­ter tak­ing a blow to the jaw from Jayson Ta­tum’s shoul­der that vi­o­lently twisted his head and sent a chill down the spines of Cleveland fans, James fin­ished with 42 points, 10 re­bounds and 12 as­sists.

It was not enough, how­ever. His team­mates failed him and the Cavs fell into a 2-0 hole in the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals.

Kevin Love (22 points, 15 re­bounds) helped, so did Kyle Korver (11 points, two three­p­oint­ers) and Tris­tan Thomp­son (eight points, seven re­bounds). But too many other Cavs ranged from medi­ocre to aw­ful.

If Cleveland is to even the se­ries at home, that has to change start­ing in Game 3 on Satur­day.

“We have to ramp it up,” said Cavs guard J.R. Smith, who didn’t score in Game 2 and com­mit­ted a crit­i­cal fla­grant foul. “We’re play­ing too slow. We’re mak­ing ’Bron play hero ball, which is tough to do, es­pe­cially in the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals. We got to help him. With that said, we have to give him an op­por­tu­nity to make him feel con­fi­dent to give us the ball so we can make the right plays. We got to help him, and he’s got to help us.”

Cavs coach Ty­ronn Lue said James “did ev­ery­thing” in prac­tice Thurs­day, but the 33-yearold had left the floor by the time me­dia mem­bers were al­lowed in for interviews. James was spot­ted in the fit­ness and train­ing area in­side the fa­cil­ity. Road test ahead: Home-court ad­van­tage has proved to be a valu­able com­mod­ity for the Celtics this post­sea­son.

Bos­ton is 9-0 at TD Gar­den dur­ing these play­offs and has blis­tered op­po­nents early in games, shoot­ing 47 per­cent from the field and 39 per­cent from beyond the three-point line. It’s of­ten led to cush­ions that have helped the Celtics sus­tain op­po­nents’ runs in the sec­ond half.

But af­ter boast­ing the thirdbest road record in the NBA dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, the Celtics have looked like a dif­fer­ent team since the post­sea­son be­gan. They are 1-4 away from their build­ing in the play­offs, shoot­ing 41 per­cent over­all and 31 per­cent from beyond the arc on the road.

That can’t per­sist if Bos­ton is to have suc­cess as the se­ries shifts to Cleveland.

Mar­cus Smart, who was all over the court in the Celtics’ Game 2 win, didn’t take any of­fense to Lue’s com­ment that the Celtics have “shown they haven’t played that well on the road.”

“We haven’t played well. We know that and un­der­stand that,” Smart said. “We un­der­stand that other teams see that and try to ex­ploit it. But that’s the beauty about this game. It just takes one game. You never know. Things change. Our con­fi­dence is high. Who knows?”

Bu­den­holzer hired: The Bucks an­nounced the hir­ing of Mike Bu­den­holzer as their head coach.

“The tremen­dously sup­port­ive fans in Mil­wau­kee and through­out Wisconsin are wait­ing and ready,” Bu­den­holzer, the for­mer Hawks coach, said in a state­ment re­leased by the Bucks. “Now it’s up to us to put all the pieces to­gether, and I can’t wait to get started.”

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