CLEVELAND – Before tip-off, the Boston Celtics knew it was going to be an uphill battle.
Playing the defending NBA champions on their home floor on the second night of a back-to-back, doing so without two key starters which led to them starting a rookie who matched up to start the game against LeBron James.
And the Celtics didn’t do themselves any favors by struggling mightily against Cleveland’s 3-point shooters which played a major role in Boston going into the half trailing 68-51.
Cleveland is tops in the NBA in 3s made per game (13.0), and ranks in the top 10 in 3-pointers attempted as well as 3-point percentage.
So for them to drill 11 3-pointers in the first half on just 18 attempts, you can see how Boston found itself playing from behind most of the first half.
But the Celtics did not go away quietly.
One of the better first-half performers for Boston was rookie Jaylen Brown who was making his first NBA start.
Filling in for Jae Crowder (ankle), Brown had nine points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field. And in his first stint, he defended LeBron James who was scoreless during that time.
But with the Celtics so depleted in the starting lineup with both Crowder and Al Horford (concussion) out, there was no need for James to lead the charges tonight.
Getting his teammates involved was indeed a priority for James who still managed a near double-double in the first half.
The Celtics fell behind by 13 points (40-27) in the second quarter, but responded with an 8-0 run capped off by a Gerald Green 3-pointer.
But the Cavs soon regrouped to push their lead back to a double-digit cushion that they were able to maintain going into the half.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Thursday’s game.
This is still LeBron James’ team, but you get the sense the gap is closing to the point when the mantel will be passed on to Irving. He was once again causing major problems offensively with 15 points in the first half along with five assists and four rebounds.
Bradley was one of the few Celtics regulars to have a decent first half shooting the ball, with Bradley tallying 8 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
Khloe Kardasian’s man (for now) aka Tristan Thompson had a near double-double in the first half, tallying 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Even in cruise control, James is still better than most players on the planet. He had what looked like a very stress-free first half, tallying 6 points and 8 assists.
He was having a rough night shooting the ball (2-for-7), but still managed to impact scoring for the Celtics by getting to the free throw line. He had nine points in the first half, fueled by a 5-for-5 performance from the free throw line.
After a scintillating 23 points less than 24 hours earlier, Johnson’s game came crashing back to earth with a serious thud. He played 12 minutes without scoring a single point for the Celtics.