The Celtics punched first and never looked back in their Game 1 rout of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lebron James took a literal shot to the jaw in Game 2 but kept right on scoring. So did the Celtics.
Jaylen Brown had 23 points as Boston contained Cleveland and a 42-point night by James in a 107-94 victory on Tuesday in a physical game that stayed close until the end of the 3rd quarter. Terry Rozier added 18 points, while Al Horford finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Boston improved to 9-0 at home this postseason and now head to Cleveland with a 2-0 lead in a playoff series -- a lead that the franchise has never blown in a playoff series before.
"We're going to fight," Rozier said. "At this point we don't care if we win by half a point. If we win, that's all that matters."
James added 12 assists and 10 rebounds to his fifth 40-point game of this postseason. He also scored 21 of his team’s 27 points in the first quarter, tying his playoff career high for points in a period. James had just 15 points and missed all five of his 3-point attempts in the Cavaliers' Game 1 loss.
However, at 3:50 in the second quarter, Celtics small forward Jayson Tatum caught James’ jaw with his shoulder as he attempted a steal. James stayed in the game for a short while before exiting to the locker room. He returned a few minutes later but the injury seemed to reduce the force of his playing.
"I think I'll be fine. I'm not going to lose sleep over it. You go out and when you lay everything on the line, at the end of the day, you can live with that," he said. "They did what they had to do, and that was protect home, and now it's our time to try to do that, as well." The Cavaliers said James had a neck sprain.
After ending the first half with a 7point lead, the Celtics outscored the Cavaliers 59-39 in the second half. The result once again proved the effectiveness of Boston’s balanced attack, with six players reaching double figures. Cleveland had 15 turnovers leading to 13 Boston points. The Celtics turned it over just six times.
Boston led 84-77 after three quarters and took command late in the fourth with the Cavaliers getting little offense other than from James. Cleveland's starters were pulled with 1:48 left and the Cavaliers down 14.
"I think we just have a group of guys that really believe in each other," Horford said. "Our group in tough times, we've always found a way."
"We've got to be tougher,” said Cavaliers coach Ty Lue, “I think they're playing tougher than we are. We see that. They're being physical. They're gooning the game up and we've got to do the same thing.”
Game 3 is on Saturday in Cleveland.