Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cavaliers 99 - Celtics 91: C's rally comes up short [CLE leads series 2-0]

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Cleveland - It took 15 fourth quarter points for LeBron to hold off the Celtics in Game 2. After a huge double-digit second half Cavs' lead had dwindled down to two, it was James' playoff experience that made the difference in a 99-91 victory for the home team and to be up 2-0 in this best of seven series matchup.

James finished with a game-high 30 points to go along with his 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. Kyrie Irving had another strong performance with 26 points while dishing out 6 assists. Timofey Mozgov added 16 points and 7 rebounds and Tristan Thompson grabbed 11 rebounds for Cleveland. Kevin Love struggled with foul trouble as he only chipped in 13 points and 6 rebounds.

Isaiah Thomas once again scored a team-high 22 points for the second straight game, plus 7 assists. Jared Sullinger contributed with 14 points and 5 rebounds off the bench and Tyler Zeller scored 11 points. Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder each finished with 10 points apiece in the Celtics loss.

By halftime the Cavaliers were up 51-50 before going on a 17-4 run to start the third quarter and grab the biggest lead of the game at 14. By the the beginning of the fourth the Cavs would lead 75-68, and the Celtics would go on a little 11-4 spurt of their own cutting the deficit 79-77, the closest Boston would get in the second half.

In the final three minutes of the fourth, Thompson grabbed three-crucial offense rebounds for the Cavs as the C's were playing against the clock in any attempts of a rally seemed far away. Brad Stevens continued to make substitutions even then Cleveland had a 97-89 advantage with 1:13 left. The Celtics only mustered up two-points in the final minute, watching the Quicken Loans Arena fans celebrate a 2-0 Cavaliers' series lead.

"We made those guys earn everything they got," Stevens said, "That's a step in the right direction. We were in a three-possession game and we shot 38-percent."

Despite the Celtics shooting poorly, they had chances to grab a second half lead. Something they didn't do either in Game 1. They stopped moving the ball and they got away from the extra pass while becoming stagnate and forcing up tough shots. Cleveland turned the ball over 18 times to the C's 11, but Boston only finished with 19 assists to the Cavs' 18 (shooting 45 percent from the field).

James was a one man show down the stretch for the Cavaliers, and it doesn't help when his supporting cast is hitting open shots on second chance opportunities.

"He's the most physically talented and certainly one of the best mental players in the game," Stevens said. "When you add that together, you've got a heck of a player. That's why he's considered one of the all-tim best and the best in the game right now."

Thomas believes his team is real close and things will be different back at home.

"We're right there," he said. "I think we can get the next one."

If the Celtics are going to try and tie this series up, they're going to need more from one of their leaders; Avery Bradley, who finished with 8 points (3-of-9) and 4 rebounds in 29 minutes.  The rebounding has to improve (47-39), with all hands on deck when it comes to boxing out and crashing the glass. Overall the home crowd makes a difference but all things have to go right against a team like the Cavs.

Game 3 comes back to the TD Garden, where it hasn't hosted a playoff game since Paul Pierce last wore a Celtics jersey two-years ago. Tip-off is @ 7:00 EST on Thursday night on TNT

Game Notes:

Early Tuesday afternoon, it was announced that Brad Stevens finished fourth in the Coach of the Year voting (ahead of San Antonio's Gregg Popovich)

"I'm not big on the postseason stuff," he said. "We all try to do our jobs to the best of our ability. I've learned from all 29 coaches in this league. There's no way you can appropriately rank them."

Joel Pavón
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