Cavaliers 128, Raptors 110 (CLE leads 2-0)
How did the night go for Cleveland? Well, LeBron James’ new nickname is LeBronto (h/t to ESPN’s play-by-play man Mark Jones for the name), so that pretty much sums it up. LeBron racked up 43 points (19-of-28 FGs) with 14 assists, eight rebounds, one steal, one block and one triple, and he had just two uncontested shots the entire game — he finished 17-of-26 on contested shots and was toying with the Raptors for most of the night. This was his 16th playoff game with 30+ points and 10+ assists which broke a tie with Michael Jordan for the most ever, and his fourth playoff game with 40+ points and 10+ assists. He hit seven fadeaway jumpers in the second half alone which ties the most in a playoff game in the past 15 years, and his 14 dimes are the most ever by a player with 40+ points.
He isn’t going to win the regular season MVP Award, but LeBron has been the best player in the postseason by a mile and is now averaging 34.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 9.0 assists on 55% percent shooting. With the series shifting to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4, the Cavaliers should love their chances of a sweep — LeBron’s teams are 28-1 in their last 29 home games vs. the Raptors and LeBron is 21-0 when his team has a 2-0 series lead (h/t to my colleague Tommy Beer).
I could keep going on and on about LeBron’s performance, but we’d be here all night. The Cavaliers got a balanced effort from role players George Hill (13 points, two assists), J.R. Smith (15 points, two triples) and Jeff Green (14 points, two blocks and four triples), and another big positive for Cleveland is that Kevin Love is finally back. He scored 31 points with 11 rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers in 35 minutes, more points than his last three games combined (28). "It was great to see that performance out of him," James said. "He's our All-Star power forward. That's a huge game for him.” If the Cavaliers can get this kind of production out of Love with the way LeBron is playing, then they should love their chances of getting back to the Finals - the Cavs are 12-2 when Love scores 24+ points.
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After blowing a 10-point lead late in Game 1, the Raptors came out firing in Game 2 and built a 9-point lead midway through the second quarter. However, the Cavaliers pulled within two points right before halftime, but then dominated the Raptors in the third quarter 37-24 to put this game away. They already look defeated and coach Casey had some strong words after the game. "The one thing you have is pride. Tonight wasn't us,” he said. “We'll find some answers, whether we change the lineup or whatever it is, to keep the offense moving, the pace going, the game moving.”
DeMar DeRozan scored a team-high 24 points to lead Toronto, hitting 11-of-23 shots with three assists. Kyle Lowry pulled his weight with 21 points, eight assists and three triples, but only attempted 10 shots. Jonas Valanciunas also came to play with 16 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and a block, and we should continue to see a heavy dose of J-Val going forward because Serge Ibaka has been terrible. This was Ibaka’s second bad game in a row and coach Dwane Casey finally saw enough when he pulled him right after halftime. He finished 0-of-5 from the field, was exposed on defense and was a -10 in 12 minutes. "Serge hasn't been himself," coach Dwane Casey said. "I don't know what it is.” Don’t be surprised if he’s a DNP for Game 3.
Pascal Siakam didn’t fare much better than Ibaka with two points, six rebounds and four fouls, but at least he’ll play with energy and it’s possible he draws a start. He averaged 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 triples in five starts this season, so he could be a sneaky play if we hear that he’s getting the nod. Fred VanVleet stepped up quite a bit tonight, as Toronto opted to go small with Ibaka in the doghouse. He finished with 14 points, four assists and four triples, but does come with some risk because he’s been bothered by that shoulder for a few weeks. Game 3 will be on Saturday in Cleveland.
Celtics 108, 76ers 103 (Celtics lead 2-0)
We’ve all heard the stat at this point. The Celtics are 36-0 all time when leading a series 2-0, so Philly has to be kicking themselves for blowing a 22-point lead. After trailing 48-26, the Celtics went on a 25-8 run to close the first half and it eventually snowballed into a 50-20 run, helping them secure their largest come-from-behind playoff victory since Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals. Jayson Tatum was all over the place once again, scoring 21 points with two rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes. He’s now the first Celtic rookie to score 20+ points in four straight since Larry Bird, and it was fitting that he iced this game with a pair of free throws at the end. He’s also the youngest player to ever score 20+ points in four straight playoff games (Kobe Bryant previously held the record) and is well on his way to becoming a superstar.
Terry Rozier scored 20 points with seven rebounds, nine assists, one steal, one block, four 3-pointers and no turnovers, while Marcus Smart had his best game of the postseason. He entered Thursday’s contest shooting a combined 9-of-35 from the field, but hit 6-of-13 shots in Game 2 for 19 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block and four triples. You can’t waste a shooting night like this from Smart, so credit to Boston for scraping their way back into the game and getting the job done.
Al Horford gave the Celtics a 5-point cushion with less than 10 seconds to go, as he caught a pass outside of the arc, drove past a tired Joel Embiid with ease and converted a wide-open layup. His final stat line of 13 points, 12 rebounds and five assists won’t turn heads, but he’s been incredible in this series on both ends.
Jaylen Brown was listed as doubtful on Thursday morning, but was able to go through a 30-minute shooting session during the afternoon and was ultimately cleared to play. He came off the bench for the first time this season, scoring 13 points with four rebounds, one assist, one steal and two 3-pointers in 25 minutes. Coach Brad Stevens said he liked what he saw from Brown, but he did look a little gimpy at times, especially when he chased down a steal in the first half and followed it up with a monster dunk.
The big story for Philly was that Ben Simmons was held to a career-low one point, the first game of his career without a field goal. He finished 0-of-4 from the field with five turnovers, adding seven assists, five rebounds and one block. The Celtics continue to dare him to shoot and their defense has done an amazing job keeping him out of the paint. “I’m going to have bad games,” Simmons said. “It happens. Obviously, it’s not the perfect timing, but you head home now, we have two home games that we need to take care of and handle business.” Simmons sat for a good chunk of the fourth quarter, but did close over T.J. McConnell even though the move ultimately backfired.
Joel Embiid had another big game despite Al Horford’s solid defense, scoring 20 points with 14 rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer in 37 minutes. You can see that the big man is staring to feel the fatigue, but it’s not like Philly can reduce his workload with their season in jeopardy and their other best player struggling.
Robert Covington bounced back from a disappointing Game 1 with a sexy fantasy line, scoring 22 points with nine rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks and four triples. J.J. Redick added 23 points and five triples, while Marco Belinelli and Dario Saric combined for 25 points and three triples. Markelle Fultz was a DNP-CD yet again and found himself in the headlines with Julius Erving saying he would’ve taken Tatum with the No. 1 pick. The series will shift to Philly for Games 3 and 4 and I have a feeling the 76ers will make this very interesting with two straight wins.