Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James recoils after colliding with Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum in front of Celtics guard Terry Rozier during the first half in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday in Boston.
BOSTON — The Celtics punched the Cavaliers first and never looked back in rolling to a Game 1 rout.
LeBron James took a literal shot to the jaw in Game 2 but kept right on scoring.
So did the Celtics.
Jaylen Brown scored 23 points and Boston withstood a 42-point night by James to beat Cleveland 107-94 on Tuesday and take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Terry Rozier added 18 points, while Al Horford finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Boston improved to 9-0 this postseason at TD Garden. The Celtics have never blown a 2-0 series lead in the playoffs.
“We're going to fight,” Rozier said. “At this point we don't care if we win by half a point. If we win, that's all that matters.”
James added 12 assists and 10 rebounds. He scored 21 of Cleveland's 27 points in the first quarter , tying his playoff career high for points in a period. His 42 points marked his fifth 40-point game of this postseason. James had just 15 points and missed all five of his 3-point attempts in the Cavs’ Game 1 loss.
But he didn't seem to play with the same force after straining his neck in a first-half collision and the Cavaliers wilted in the second half, with the Celtics outscoring them 59-39.
“I think I'll be fine. I'm not going to lose sleep over it. You go out and when you lay everything on the line, at the end of the day, you can live with that,” he said. “They did what they had to do, and that was protect home, and now it's our time to try to do that, as well.”
Kevin Love finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds for Cleveland.
As expected, Tristan Thompson started in place of Kyle Korver in the hopes his presence could energize what was a sluggish Cavs offense in Game 1. Thompson got Cleveland's first basket of the night and helped to limit Horford's effectiveness on the inside early on.
Korver added 11 points off the bench for Cleveland. But starters Thompson, JR Smith and George Hill combined for just 11 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
Tempers flared with 3:49 to play with Boston leading 97-89. Marcus Morris got in Smith's face after Smith pushed Horford in the back to prevent a layup. Smith shoved Morris and the pair had to be separated.
Smith was assessed a flagrant foul and both received technical fouls.
“I felt like it was uncalled for that type of play there,” Horford said. “We have each other's backs. ... We moved on to the next play way and we locked in after that.”
Smith said there was no malicious intent on the play.
“I blatantly pushed him. It wasn't like I was trying to low bridge him or something. Just make sure he didn't get it,” Smith said. “It was a good, hard foul.”
Boston's balanced attack was effective again, with six players reaching double figures. Cleveland had 15 turnovers leading to 13 Boston points. The Celtics turned it over just six times.
Boston led 84-77 after three quarters and took command late in the fourth with the Cavs getting little offense other than from James. Cleveland's starters were pulled with 1:48 left and the Cavs down 14.
James was on the attack from the opening tip. He turned the ball over the Cavs’ first possession. But it was one of his only miscues in the first quarter.
James was also astoundingly efficient, using his dribble to create space, while he knocked down an assortment of jump shots.
He finished the opening quarter 8 of 13 from the field and 4 of 7 from the 3-point line.
His momentum was stunted briefly at the 3:50 mark of the second quarter, when Jayson Tatum was whistled for a foul after catching James jaw with his shoulder as he attempted a steal. James stayed in the game and connected on one of his ensuing free throws, but then exited to the locker room with Cleveland leading 47-36.
The Cavaliers said James had a neck sprain. He returned after missing less than two minutes of game time.
Boston flurried just before the half, getting six points from Morris in the final minute to trim Cleveland's lead to 55-48 at the break.
“I think we just have a group of guys that really believe in each other,” Horford said. “Our group in tough times, we've always found a way.”
Cavaliers: Were outscored 50-42 in the paint after being outscored 60-38 in Game 1.
Celtics: Went 10 of 31 from the 3-point line.
“We've got to be tougher. I think they're playing tougher than we are. We see that. They're being physical. They're gooning the game up and we've got to do the same thing.” — Cavaliers coach Ty Lue
According to Elias Sports Bureau, James now has three career playoff 40-point triple-doubles. That is the most in NBA postseason history.
DEFENDING A TEAMMATE
Smart said Smith's play was a “dirty shot.”
“That's not the first time JR has done some dirty stuff, especially playing against us,” he said. “It's like a bully, you keep letting a bully keep picking on you, he's going to pick on you until you finally stand up. And that's what I tried to do.”
Game 3 is Saturday in Cleveland.
- Cavaliers hope to rise up by speeding up against the Celtics
- Cavs headed to NBA Finals
- Sounding the alarm: Cavaliers have reason to worry with their season on the line against the Celtics
- Eastern Conference finals: Celtics beat Cavs 96-83 in Game 5
- Cavaliers: Kyle Korver earns kudos for hustle play, as teammates rave about his work ethic, effort and attitude
- Tyronn Lue says Cavs must pack aggressive play for trip to Boston
- Commentary: The Celtics have home court, but the Cavs still have LeBron James
- Commentary: Thanks to LeBron James and plenty of determination, a nightmarish Cavaliers season ends up back in the Finals again
- Cavs split series with 111-102 win over Celtics in Game 4 of Eastern Conference finals (UPDATED)
- Cavaliers: LeBron James got big assist from teammates in Game 3 victory, needs same support tonight in Game 4
- George Hill gets aggressive from beginning, helps Cavs turn things around in Game 3
- Back in business: Cavaliers dominate Celtics from start to finish in Game 3
- Jim Ingraham: When Cavs try hard, they can make it look easy
- Tristan Thompson back to making a difference for Cavs
- Jim Ingraham: Playing hard doesn't seem to be a priority for the Cavs right now
- Cavaliers not panicking, but need to get better ... fast
- NBA Playoffs: LeBron James stunned after collision, but returns and finishes with 42 points in triple-double
- Tristan Thompson to the rescue? Cavaliers center might get start tonight in Game 2, has history of success against Al Horford
- Heading to Boston: Cavaliers expecting a tough foe and a tough crowd
- NBA Playoffs: Cavaliers and Celtics are familiar foes with different looks this year ... except for the constant brilliance of LeBron James
- Cavaliers Commentary: Without Kyrie Irving in the lineup for either team, series lacks a serious ego and some drama
- NBA Playoffs: Boston's Marcus Morris takes on challenge of guarding LeBron James, helps hold him to playoff-low 15 points
- Celtics 108, Cavaliers 83: LeBron James struggles, Cleveland falls flat, gets run over in ugly Game 1 defeat
- Cavs: Cleveland, Boston overcame obstacles to meet again in Eastern Conference finals
- The NBA's Final Four: Cavs, Celtics, Warriors, Rockets
- NBA Playoffs: Celtics hold off Sixers, advance to meet Cavs; Eastern Conference finals start Sunday afternoon
- Cavaliers complete the sweep to advance to the Eastern Conference finals