Cavaliers return home, seek first series win over Celtics
CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cleveland Cavaliers have survived so much this season.
They’re one loss from facing a scenario no NBA team has survived -- being down 0-3 in a playoff series.
The Eastern Conference finals shifts to Cleveland for Game 3 on Saturday with the Boston Celtics holding a 2-0 lead. History is already way, way in the Celtics’ favor.
Of the 300 teams to take 2-0 leads in best-of-seven series, 281 won the series.
Then again, of the 19 teams who’ve made the comeback, two were piloted by LeBron James.
So, unless the Celtics steal Game 3, this series isn’t over. But the Cavs have their heels on the edge of history’s cliff.
“We’re down 0-2. No need to panic,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “I mean, we played a Game 7, so I mean, that’s the danger. The danger’s not like we come out and don’t play well tomorrow and lose, it’s over. We still have games to play.”
The Cavs did indeed already play a Game 7 in the playoffs -- avoiding elimination by beating the Indiana Pacers in the first round. The Celtics faced the same situation in the opening round against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Boston has won both games in the conference finals by double digits -- including a 107-94 victory in Game 2. James posted his fifth triple-double with 40 or more points (42) in that game, and the Cavs still lost.
Jaylen Brown has scored 23 points in both games of this series, and overall Boston’s starting backcourt (Brown and Terry Rozier) has outscored the Cavs’ starting guards 72-12.
But Boston is just 1-4 on the road in this postseason, with statistical drops in just about every major category when playing away from TD Garden.
The Celtics are also a young team missing its two best players (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward). The Cavs aren’t what they once were (remember, Irving used to play for them), but organizationally they are the three-time defending conference champs.
“Like what happened in previous games, what happens in the future is all out the window,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “It’s just about what happens in that 48-minute segment. Our guys know that. We’re going to have to play really hard. We’re going to have to play really connected.
“Obviously, with all they’ve accomplished over the last two years, they’ve been tremendous on the road and at home, but especially at home. It’ll be a heck of a challenge.”
The Cavs are 5-1 at home in the 2018 playoffs, with two buzzer beaters from James to steal two games. James steered the 2007 Cavs back from an 0-2 hole to beat the Detroit Pistons in the conference finals, and James and Irving co-piloted the Cavs from deficits of 0-2 and 1-3 in the 2016 Finals to stun the Warriors.
Only four players remain from the 2016 championship team -- James, Kevin Love, JR Smith, and Tristan Thompson -- and Kyle Korver represents the only other current Cavs player on the 2017 Finals team that lost in five games to Golden State.
And yet this veteran group lost its composure in the second half of Game 2, blowing an eight-point halftime lead and missing all eight 3s in the fourth quarter.
“Going to the Finals a bunch of years in a row, when things don’t go the way you want them to it’s like, ‘Man, why didn’t that work?’” Korver said. “And this year there’s been a lot of turnover.
“We just have to learn how to -- not learn how to, we know how to -- we have to be focused on just playing through (mistakes), staying positive.”