The Cavaliers took Game 2 from the Celtics, but they needed plenty of heroics from both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to get the job done.
James finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Irving added 26 points of his own to secure the 99-91 victory, and the 2-0 series lead that came along with it.
Boston outworked Cleveland for much of the first half to lead by as many as nine points, despite shooting just 38.3 percent from the field over the first two periods. The Celtics used offensive rebounds and Cavaliers turnovers to earn eight additional shot attempts, and got contributions from everyone to keep the game close.
But despite an early measure of success, Boston trailed by one at the intermission. The Cavaliers then went up by 14 points midway through the third, thanks to a 15-2 run that featured not one, but two incredible alley-oop slams — the first on a half-court pass from James to Kevin Love, and the second on a fast break where Irving found James for one of the game’s more thunderous finishes.
But the Celtics didn’t quit. They were able to slowly and steadily battle back, behind the offense of Isaiah Thomas and a defense which forced seven fourth-quarter Cavaliers turnovers. Boston was back within two with just under seven minutes to play, and was within four with a little over three minutes left before Irving and James — who combined to score all 24 of Cleveland’s fourth-quarter points — were able to close the game out.
The Celtics may have finished the regular season with a record of just 40-42, but they ended it on a tear, winning 23 of their last 35 games. They’re better than their record would indicate, they’re capable of causing problems for their opponent for extended stretches, and they made the Cavaliers work for everything they got in this one.
But in the end, the elite level of talent on the Cleveland roster was too much to overcome, and that will almost certainly be the case for the final two (or perhaps three) games that remain in this first-round series.