LeBron James and the Cavaliers defeated the Celtics tonight, 87-79. They handed Boston their first home loss of the postseason and the most costly one at that. This was a gritty, scrappy, physical low scoring defensive battle. Neither team could find a groove offensively but James and Co. made key plays when it mattered down the stretch. Both teams combined to shoot a miserable 16/74 from beyond the arc, a mere 21.6%.
It was a grim-looking start for LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Boston led by 12 midway through the second quarter. The Cavaliers’ role players couldn’t hit a shot and Al Horford dominated inside. Cleveland went on a run midway through the third quarter and never truly relinquished control from that point.
Jayson Tatum played out of his mind; someone clearly told him that rookies don’t do things like this in the playoffs. The big stage doesn’t faze the cold-blooded Tatum, from hitting stepback threes to dunking on the King himself. The 20-year-old recorded 24 points and seven board, setting himself up for superstardom in the future. Al Horford bounced back from his poor game six performance, taking advantage of the mismatches Cleveland presented him. Horford scored 17 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished three assists.
The Celtics’ two other young stars, Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown, crumbled under the spotlight of a game seven. Rozier didn’t look so scary tonight, disappearing when it mattered most. He only managed four points, going 0-10 from deep. Brown scored 13 points, shooting 5-18 from the field and 3-12 from three. This Boston team should be extremely proud of this season, despite their disappointing performance tonight. Playing without their two all-stars in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, they made it this far and nearly dethroned LeBron James. When healthy, Boston looks to dominate the East for many years to come once James moves on.
The Cavaliers needed their role players to step up and they did just that. Despite missing open shots early, they made their impact felt in other ways. Filling in for the injured Kevin Love, Jeff Green had a monster showing. Green was an absolute X-factor, scoring 19 points and adding eight rebounds. Tristan Thompson’s 10 points and nine boards combined with his defense and energy were monumental. George Hill was great on defense and even J.R. Smith had his moments.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about LeBron James.
The King didn’t put up his expected 50-10-10 triple-double but dominated like we all expected. James scored 35, grabbed 15 boards, and dished nine assists. His eight turnovers were concerning but ultimately he was too much for the young Celtics to handle. The Cavaliers had a very rough season, from the drama to the midseason roster overhaul which may or may not be an upgrade, to the Pacers’ series, to this series. James is 33, played all 48 minutes tonight, played 100 games so far this year, and is the best player in the league. This is undoubtedly one of James’ biggest accomplishments and furthers his legacy as one of the best ever.
Now, Cleveland looks to the finals where they will face the winner of tomorrow night’s game seven out West. Ever since Kevin Durant joined the squad the Cavs haven’t been able to figure the Warriors out but this is the most vulnerable they’ve looked in some time. Houston is a new challenge but one just as dire. Their potent offense will test the Cavaliers’ defense, which was uncharacteristically excellent tonight. Tonight, the city of Cleveland will rejoice and look to Thursday’s game one.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.