LeBron, Cavs Knock Off C’s In Game 7
The Boston Celtics were on a storybook run this postseason, but their Cinderella-like journey was upended by the King of the NBA in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers came from behind to knock off the young and injury plagued Celtics, 87-79, to send the James to his eighth straight finals appearance.
The game couldn't have started much better for the C's, who jumped out to a 26-18 lead, after the first quarter.
Rookie Jayson Tatum provided the early spark, scoring four quick points in the opening minutes of the game and finishing with nine in the quarter.
Veteran forward Al Horford, who struggled mightily in Game 6, also got off to a hot start. Working well in the pick-and-roll offense and taking advantage of smaller defenders that had switched onto him, Horford, who was held to a series-low six points in Game 6, went off for eight first quarter points.
As for Cleveland, James scored 12 of their 18 opening quarter points. While he was able to score when he needed to, his Cavs teammates were nowhere to be found in the early going.
Cleveland's first quarter shooting was so bad that James didn't record a first quarter assist for the first time this postseason, despite hitting multiple shooters with wide open opportunities.
In the second, Boston stretched their lead early, ballooning it up to 12 points midway through the frame. With Tatum and Horford continuing their hot starts, the C's also got a boost from Marcus Morris, who came off the bench to put up seven points and seven rebounds in the half.
Cleveland, thanks to a 12-2 run which saw guys like Jeff Green and Tristan Thompson step up to aid James, was able to cut it back to a one shot lead near the end of the half.
With both teams struggling mightily from three-point range, the C's took a modest, 43-39 lead into the break.
Cleveland bounced back in the third, getting contributions from J.R. Smith and Green, along with James. While the Cavs saw some of their role players step up, the Celtics went ice cold, as a team.
Scoring just 13 points in the quarter, Boston struggled to get any offense going, out of the break. The combination of Horford and Tatum, who totaled 25 first half points, tallied just four third quarter points, all coming from Tatum.
To start the fourth, Tatum got back to his dominant ways, scoring a quick 10 points which included a posterizing dunk over James.
Unfortunately for Tatum, however, his teammates did their best impression of James' teammates from earlier in the series and disappeared on him. Horford contributed just three fourth quarter points, while Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown were basically nonexistent down the stretch.
On the flip side, James and the Cavs were clutch. Big shots from Smith, Kyle Korver and Green rained down on Boston's parade, quieted the crowd and ultimately shut the door on the C's magical run.
Throughout the game, James was dominant, posting a stat line that included 35 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. Green (19), Smith (12) and Thompson (10) all rose to the occasion as well, combining for 41 points to help aid the greatest player in the league.
On the other end of the court, Boston crumbled in the spotlight. With the exception of Tatum, who was absolutley phenomenal, with 24 points and seven boards, the team was abysmal shooting the ball.
After his hot first quarter, Al Horford was basically nonexistent down the stretch. Rozier, Brown and Marcus Smart played so poorly, they'll make you forget about Horford's inability to sustain his early play. The trio combined for just 21 points on a horrific 8-42 shooting from the field. The only thing worse than that was their shooting from beyond the arc, where they were just 3-36.
In the end, the King got the job done again, making more remarkable history. Boston's season, which started off negatively and took a roller coaster ride throughout, had highs and lows and should be remembered for what they accomplished with what they had at their disposal. Though the ultimate prize wasn't achieved, they are set up to use this run and an influx of healthy, high-level players to become an absolute juggernaut for years to come.