After game one of the Eastern Conference Finals, one might have thought this series would be a full of one sided affairs and not very competitive. But Game Two had other plans.
Lebron James decided to give his typical Game Two performance, notching a triple double on his way to 42, 10, and 12 on 16-for-29 shooting. James came to play and did not disappoint, but even with the Cav’s best haymaker in the first half, the Celtics just kept on coming.
Game one was a mirage of energy, excitement and offensive explosion from the Celtics that was sure not to continue in game two. All year they’ve been a defense first, hustle play, scrappy team that plays within their system. Game one fooled us into thinking this Celtics team was really Warriors East, but Game two is more of who they really are. A slow first half may have been expected (especially with James scoring 21 points in the first quarter to the Celtics 27 as a team), but Steven’s adjustments in the second half made the difference.
The real question is: Is there anything the Cavaliers can do to win? Need a 40 point game from James? Check. Need a 20 and 10 from Love? How about 22 and 15. Kyle Korver from deep? Throw in 11 points. However, the difference wasn’t what Lebron did or what Love did or how much of a threat Korver was, but rather EVERYONE ELSE.
Only three players managed to score in double digits for the Cavs. Contrast that with the Celtics who spread the ball around and made almost 300 passes for the game (the Cavs only had 246). We talked about ISO ball and how the Rockets can try to make the Warriors play their own game, but in order for the Cavs to have a chance against the Celtics, it’s going to take more than a Herculean effort from Lebron. The Cavs are going to have to play more like the Celtics play – unselfish basketball.
All five starters plus the sixth “starter” in Smart scored in double figures. But as well constructed as the second half was for the Celtics, it was their intensity, their defense, and their Effort (yes that’s a capital “E”) that ultimately trounced the Cavs. Costly turnovers, defensive rotations, and timely offensive sets were the key to holding off a late fourth quarter comeback from the Cavs, and that’s exactly how the Celtics have been playing all year.
Down 22 in the second quarter? No problem. Up 3 with a minute to go? The Celtics can hold the lead. The combination of Brad Stevens, Al Horford, Marcus Smart and a team of tough gritty players is a recipe for winning any type of game. These Celtics look unstoppable at the moment. They can win any type of game, no matter the style. However, it’s all predicated on their defense. If the Cavs can unlock JR and Korver at home – or even play Clarkson without giving too much up on the defensive end, this Celtics team can easily be held to 80 points.
The Cavs look desperate. They gave the Celtics their best stuff, and lost. Lebron played out of his mind (and may or may not have gotten a concussion in the process), and they still came up short. We could talk about matchups, we could talk about in game adjustments, pick n’ roll defense, or any myriad of things. But when your team shoots better (46.3% FG and 32.3% 3-PT for the Cavs vs 43.5% FG and 32.3% 3-PT for the Celtics) and you still lose, then no adjustment in the world is going to hlep.
The Cavaliers made this game fun, pushing out to an early lead in the first half, and the Celtics made it even better pulling away in the second and stemming off a Cav’s comeback. Can Lebron be even greater than he already is to defeat this Celtics team? Who knows, but in the end, what he does might not even matter. When every loose ball and every 50/50 rebound is snatched by a player in green, it’s hard to win.
Even if you’re the king.