Gerald Green

AP

LeBron James, Cavaliers advance past Celtics to meet Warriors in 2017 NBA Finals

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Let’s line it up and run it again. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are going to meet in the 2017 NBA Finals after LeBron James and the Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics in Game 5 on Thursday, 135-102.

It wasn’t much of a contest from the outset as Cleveland looked determined to put away their opponent. The Cavaliers played strong, shot well from 3-point range, and forced the Celtics into 18 turnovers over the course of the game.

The Cavaliers set a franchise playoff record in the first half, scoring 75 points in the first two periods. LeBron had 20 before the third quarter started, putting him just inches away from passing Michael Jordan to top the list for most points scored in NBA playoff history.

That moment came in the third quarter, with James dropping in a sweet 3-pointer from the left side of the arc to push him past Jordan. LeBron finished the game with 35 points, going 4-of-7 from 3-point range will adding eight assists, eight rebounds, and three steals.

Kyrie Irving was another bright spot for the Cavaliers, scoring 24 points to go along with seven assists. Kevin Love added 15 points, and Deron Williams had a rejuvenation off the bench with 14.

For Boston, yet another game without Isaiah Thomas forced their offense into stagnation. Avery Bradley — who had a considerable series in an effort that should not be overlooked — scored 20 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Gerald Green was Boston’s second-leading scorer in a bench role, adding 14 points.

Now we get to wait until June 1, when what seemed an inevitability way back in training camp has indeed come to pass. The Warriors get their shot at redemption after the worst breakdown in NBA playoff history, and the Cavaliers get a chance to solidify themselves over their peers and galvanize LeBron’s position as the best player of a generation.

The Finals don’t start for anther week. We’ll all be champing at the bit to see if Cleveland really does have what it takes to guard the Warriors offense. Likewise, a top defensive team in Golden State will need to prepare themselves for the LeBron that showed up against the Celtics in Game 1 and 2.

Cavaliers embarrass Celtics 130-86, take dominant 2-0 lead in series

Associated Press
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Are we sure the Cavaliers are not the Monstars?

Boston switched up their starting lineup, putting Gerald Green in the mix. The Celtics gang rebounding a focus and switched up their defensive coverages. They played with more energy.

It didn’t matter. Boston started the game shooting 0-of-7 from the floor, trailed by 14 after one quarter as the Cavaliers went on a 28-6 run spanning the first and second, and by halftime Boston had scored just 31 points and trailed by 41 (an NBA record for largest halftime deficit in a playoff game).

“It was honestly just embarassing,” Avery Bradley said after the game. “They came out not only playing harder, they knocked down shots, and I think that made it that much worse.”

Actually, things still got worse: Boston’s Isaiah Thomas strained his right hip late in the first half and missed all of the second half. His status going forward is unknown, but the injury is considered “significant” according to Chris Mannix of The Vertical (he also works for Comcast Sports Net which broadcasts Celtics games). Thomas was 0-of-6 shooting for two points in this game and was again completely smothered by the Cavaliers defense.

The Cavaliers won 130-86 to take a commanding 2-0 series lead as the series now heads to Cleveland for Game 3 on Sunday.

LeBron James had 30 points, his 18th career and eighth straight 30-point playoff game (the latter of those tying Michael Jordan for the most all time). And he didn’t even play the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving added 23, Kevin Love had 21 points and 12 rebounds.

“We’re very focused,” Irving said in a televised interview after the game, and maybe understating things a bit. “We have a lot of confidence in what we have as a team and when we come out and play like this, anything’s possible.”

This loss had to devastate Boston’s confidence. It’s hard not to imagine this ending in a sweep. Right now the Cavaliers are 10-0 so far this postseason.

In Game 2, we could talk about how Boston had no answer for the LeBron at center lineups, or how Cleveland’s passing was crisp while Boston was slow to recover, or a host of other things, but the real issue for Boston is they just cannot find a way to score on a suddenly-focused Cavaliers defense. They had no flow to their sets, everything they tried they got taken out of by the Cavaliers. The Celtics had an offensive rating of 75 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter, and the second quarter was worse. Things like this kept happening.

There has been a lot of talk this week about the Celtics future, especially with them now holding the No. 1 pick in the draft. As ugly as the losses have been for Boston in this series, they validate GM Danny Ainge’s decision to not to trade that pick and other players at the deadline for Paul George or Jimmy Butler — they would have not changed the outcome of this series. Made it closer, maybe gotten Boston a win, but that’s it for what would have been a high price. Boston has been patient and now you can see why, and you can see the path forward: Draft Markelle Fultz, make a hard run at Gordon Hayward in free agency, but if he decides to stay in Utah then make a run at someone else in 2018. Make sure the fits are right, find some guys who can be stronger inside and on the glass, and continue to improve. Boston made a step forward this season to get the No. 1 seed and reach the conference finals, just continue to build off that. Don’t panic and rush things.

For Cleveland, just stay healthy. The biggest test is yet to come.

Celtics to start Gerald Green, bring Amir Johnson off bench in Game 2

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Inserting Gerald Green into the starting lineup worked well for Boston in the first round against Chicago, that is when the Celtics were down 0-2 and turned the series around. Well, it was that and Rajon Rondo getting injured. And the Celtics just becoming more focused defensively.

Whether it works against a far better Cleveland team is another question entirely, but Boston coach Brad Stevens is going to give it a shot, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.

Green is more athletic than Amir Johnson and may be slightly better suited to guarding LeBron James, although with the way LeBron is playing it’s all relative.

Expect a better, more determined effort from Boston in Game 2.

Whether that is enough is another question.

Cavaliers overwhelm Celtics in Game 1

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Celtics fans cheered wildly.

Their team had just cut the deficit to 17 to end the third quarter.

The Cavaliers dominated quickly and then were up-and-down in extended garbage time of a 117-104 win at Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Cleveland led by double digits the final three quarters and by 20 for nearly half the game.

Cavs-Warriors III in the Finals has never felt more inevitable, both teams remaining undefeated in these playoffs. The Spurs’ chances of upsetting Golden State nearly ran out when Kawhi Leonard got hurt, and Boston’s bid to topple the Cavaliers didn’t get off the ground in Game 1.

The Celtics stayed home on Cleveland’s 3-point shooters, so the Cavaliers – particularly LeBron James (38 points on 14-of-24 shooting, nine rebounds and seven assists) – feasted inside. Tristan Thompson (20 points on 7-for-7 shooting with six offensive rebounds) crashed the offensive glass relentlessly, and his final line doesn’t reveal the true scope of the pressure he put on Boston’s defense. The Cavs shot 28-for-35 from the free-throw line to 10-for-18 to the Celtics, a disparity that reflects the difference in paint play.

Kevin Love (32 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including 6-of-9 on 3-pointers, with 12 rebounds) was the only Cavalier who consistently got loose on the perimeter, completing a dominant frontcourt performance.

Al Horford (11 points on 4-of-11 shooting) was off yet again against the Cavaliers, a continuation of his Hawks days, until the game got out of hand. Jae Crowder (21 points, eight rebounds and five assists) and Avery Bradley (21 points) had their moments, but the Celtics looked completely overmatched – and it’s unclear where they go from here.

Boston, which cycled through several defenders on LeBron, could send more help to the Cleveland star. But LeBron has become so good at picking apart defenses with his passing. Maybe the Celtics will shoot better on 3-pointers (12-for-38, 32% tonight), but that’s still not necessarily enough to keep up with the Cavs’ dominant offense. Jaylen Brown (10 points on 5-of-7 shooting with nine rebounds and Boston’s most passable defense on LeBron) was a breath of fresh air, and Gerald Green (11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, +11) shined late. But what will those two do when the game is more contested?

It’s foolish to write off the Celtics after only one game, but this result met every fear of an unwatchable series.

Boston’s answer to LeBron might have come yesterday – which means help won’t arrive until it’s too late for this year.

Avery Bradley scores 23, Celtics eliminate Bulls 105-83

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CHICAGO (AP) — Avery Bradley scored 23 points, and the hot-shooting Boston Celtics pounded the Chicago Bulls 105-83 to win their first-round series 4-2 on Friday night.

The top-seeded Celtics simply torched Chicago to finish off a tougher-than-anticipated series and advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Boston regrouped after dropping the first two games at home and will meet Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Game 1 is Sunday.

Bradley finished one point shy of a playoff career high he set in Game 5. He nailed three 3-pointers and the Celtics hit 16 of 39 from long range.

Gerald Green scored 16 and Isaiah Thomas had 12 before heading home to Washington state for his sister Chyna’s funeral on Saturday. Her death in a car accident the day before the playoff opener dealt a blow to the Celtics. But Boston rallied around its star player and regrouped when it looked like the series might slip from reach.

Jimmy Butler led Chicago with 23 points. But the Bulls never really found their rhythm over the final four games with point guard Rajon Rondo sidelined by a broken right thumb.

Dwyane Wade shot just 1 of 10 in a two-point effort that could be his final appearance for the Bulls. He has a $23.8 million option on the two-year deal he signed last summer to leave Miami and come home to Chicago.

The Celtics led by 13 at the half and outscored the Bulls 34-18 in the third quarter to put this one away. Things got so bad that loud boos started ringing through the United Center.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Bradley said he was planning to attend Chyna Thomas’ funeral. That hinged on the flight options and whether the Celtics were playing on Sunday. “If I’m not able to be there I’m going to make sure I’m supporting him however I can to let him know I’m here for him during this time,” Bradley said.

Bulls: Hoiberg said there is no structural damage in Butler’s right knee. He also had this response when asked what soreness means: “Uh, that it hurts.” … New Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 pick in the draft, got a rude welcome from the Chicago crowd. He was booed when he was shown on the videoboard in the third quarter.