Though not nearly as disastrous as Saturday’s debacle, the Boston Celtics find themselves tied at two games apiece in the Eastern Conference Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers after a 111-102 loss on Monday night.
Cleveland broke away from Boston after trailing 10-9 earlier, growing a lead as large as 19 points and never sustaining any real threats thanks to 44 points from LeBron James.
It wasn’t clear from the tip that we were getting the fully-engaged version of James, whose 28 field goal attempts were 16 more than the next closest Cavalier. He deferred on the first three possessions of the game for Cleveland, not advancing inside the 3-point line with the ball at any point.
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The Cavaliers closed the first quarter on a 25-8 run, however, with James chipping in 11 points and not missing any of his four shots from the field.
Trailing 34-18 at the end of one, the Celtics had more missed field goal attempts than points. They wouldn’t be within single digits of the Cavs until the third quarter and even after a spirited 8-0 run early in the fourth quarter, could get no closer than seven points.
Somehow, Boston couldn’t cash in on a night in which Kevin Love, Cleveland’s second-best offensive player by almost any measure, picked up his fifth foul in the third quarter and shot a ghastly 3 for 12 from the field.
Boston did itself no favors over the course of the game with five missed dunks, including three in the first quarter. Jaylen Brown, the culprit of two whiffs in the first, recovered nicely to lead the team with 25 points.
While all five members of the starting lineup finished in double figures in scoring for the Celtics, the team’s efficiency left much to be desired. Boston shot an unacceptable 35 for 85 (40.5 percent) from the field, including 9 for 28 (32.1 percent) from 3-point land.
The bench gave Boston almost nothing, either. Aron Baynes had a few timely dunks to finish with eight points, but Marcus Smart missed each of his first six shots from the floor and turned the ball over six times.
Kyle Korver aided James in helping the Cavaliers build up a lead which would up being insurmountable, making each of his first three shots from the floor – dating back to the start of Game 3, his first miss from the field in Cleveland didn’t come until late in the third quarter – finishing with 14 points, second most on the Cavs.
J.R. Smith had his share of ill-timed 3s that clanged off the back of the rim and even an air ball for good measure, but he still hit 3 of 6 from downtown.
Tristan Thompson had a double with 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers and George Hill continued to turn things around with a 13-point performance on 6 for 9 shooting.
Jayson Tatum had 17 points, Terry Rozier III had 16 points (on 3 of 9 3-point shooting) to go along with 11 assists and Al Horford had 15 for the Celtics after not making a shot from the field in the first quarter. Marcus Morris had 10 points for Boston.
The Celtics are now 1-6 on the road this postseason, compared to 9-0 at TD Garden. Fortunately for them, that’s where Game 5 is on Wednesday night. Tipoff is at 8:30 p.m.