(Photo Credit: USA Today Sports via Reuters/Greg M. Cooper)
The Boston Celtics are very much in the driver’s seat in the Eastern Conference Finals after building a 2-0 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celtics withstood a remarkable performance from LeBron James in Game 2 as they battled back to claim a 107-94 win. Jaylen Brown continued his excellent series as he dropped 23 points to lead the team for the second straight game. Terry Rozier added 18 points as he was instrumental in the Celtics’ huge 36-22 advantage in the third quarter. Meanwhile, their excellent defense continued to make the Cavs’ explosive offense work for every single bucket.
As for the Cavs, James did everything in his power to lead the Cavs to victory, as he delivered a remarkable line of 42 points, ten rebounds, and 12 assists. He came out red-hot in the first half to help give the Cavs the advantage at the half. But whether it was due to fatigue or the neck strain he suffered at the end of the first half, he couldn’t carry the Cavs all the way to victory. Kevin Love had 22 points and 15 rebounds, but no other Cavs player had a notably good game apart from those two. Tristan Thompson had eight points and seven rebounds as his insertion to the starting lineup didn’t have the intended impact.
Three keys to the game
Home-court advantage – If the Celtics have shown one area of weakness during this postseason, it’s been their spotty road form. They have just one win outside the Garden in their first five attempts. They will be hard-pressed to pick one up in a hostile environment in Cleveland, where the Cavs know a third-straight defeat will surely mean the end of their season.
LeBron James – With that in mind, expect James to once again be at his best. It’s hard to see how he can top his amazing Game 2 performance, but it’s important never to put anything beyond the King. James is a perfect 6-0 in his illustrious career during Games 3 and 4 when he’s been down 2-0 in an Eastern Conference playoff series.
Celtics intensity – Boston once again showed tremendous resilience in Game 2 as they took a huge James haymaker and rallied to victory. It’ll be tougher to recreate that level of intensity on the road, but they’ve shown they are the better team. If they can continue to play with the same effectiveness defensively, they definitely have a shot at stealing Game 3.
Matchup to watch
Jayson Tatum vs JR Smith – Tatum had a rare off-night in Game 2 as he was limited to just 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting. The Celtics will need a bounce-back performance from their precocious rookie to grab a commanding 3-0 series lead. The Cavs will need Smith to finally show up in this series. The veteran swingman has been awful, scoring just four points on 2-of-16 shooting from the field in the first two games.
Celtics projected starting lineup
PG – Terry Rozier | SG – Jaylen Brown | SF – Jayson Tatum | PF – Marcus Morris | C – Al Horford
Cavs projected starting lineup
PG – George Hill | SG – Kyle Korver | SF – JR Smith | PF – LeBron James | C – Kevin Love
Jaylen Brown has proven to be the most reliable Celtic fantasy-wise in this postseason. But like the rest of the team, he’s had some off nights away from home. He and Al Horford are probably the two Celtics who will be the best bets to put up strong numbers even on the road.
On the other side, James and Love are obviously the two clear-cut fantasy studs for Cleveland. Kyle Korver could be an interesting wild card though. While he hasn’t performed well in the Celtics series, the Cavs still need his shooting if they stand any shot in overturning their 2-0 deficit.
As good as the Celtics have looked during the first two games, Game 3 seems to have the Cavs written all over it. Apart from the Celtics’ shaky road form, it’s just hard to see LeBron going down without a fight. Take the Cavs to win and cover the 6.5-point spread at home.
The Cavs stay alive in the series as they get the 113-105 home win in Game 3.
This game will be broadcast on ESPN. Tip-off is at 8:30 pm Eastern.
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