Jaylen Brown scored 23 points and Boston withstood a 42-point night by Cleveland superstar LeBron James to beat the Cavaliers 107-94 in Game 2. James left briefly after being struck in the jaw by Jayson Tatum’s shoulder.
BOSTON – The Boston Celtics punched the Cavaliers first and never looked back in rolling to a Game 1 rout.
Cleveland’s LeBron James took a literal shot to the jaw in Game 2 but kept right on scoring.
So did the Celtics.
Jaylen Brown scored 23 points and Boston withstood a 42-point night by James to beat Cleveland 107-94 on Tuesday and take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
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Terry Rozier added 18 points, while Al Horford finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Boston improved to 9-0 this postseason at TD Garden. The Celtics have never blown a 2-0 series lead in the playoffs.
“We’re going to fight,” Rozier said. “At this point, we don’t care if we win by half a point. If we win, that’s all that matters.”
James added 12 assists and 10 rebounds. He scored 21 of Cleveland’s 27 points in the first quarter, tying his playoff career high for points in a period. His 42 points marked his fifth game with at least 40 this postseason. James had a mere 15 points and missed all five of his three-point tries in Game 1.
But James didn’t seem to play with the same force after straining his neck in a first-half collision and the Cavaliers wilted in the second half, with the Celtics outscoring them 59-39.
“I think I’ll be fine. I’m not going to lose sleep over it. You go out and when you lay everything on the line, at the end of the day, you can live with that,” James said. “They did what they had to do, and that was protect home, and now it’s our time to try to do that, as well.”
Kevin Love finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds for Cleveland.
As expected, Tristan Thompson started in place of Kyle Korver in the hopes his presence could energize what was a sluggish Cleveland offense in Game 1. Thompson got Cleveland’s first basket of the night and helped to limit Horford early.
Korver added 11 points off the bench for Cleveland. But starters Thompson, J.R. Smith and George Hill combined for a mere 11 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
Tempers flared with 3:49 to play with Boston leading 97-89. Marcus Morris got in Smith’s face after Smith pushed Horford in the back to prevent a layup. Smith shoved Morris and the pair had to be separated.
Smith was assessed a flagrant foul and both received technical fouls.
“I felt like it was uncalled for, that type of play there,” Horford said. “We have each other’s backs. … We moved on to the next play way and we locked in after that.”
Smith said there was no malicious intent on the play.
“It wasn’t like I was trying to low-bridge him or something,” Smith said.
Boston’s balanced attack was effective again, with six players in double figures.
Boston led 84-77 after three quarters and took command late in the fourth. Cleveland’s starters were pulled with 1:48 left.
At the 3:50 mark of the second quarter, Jayson Tatum was whistled for a foul after catching James in the jaw with his shoulder as he attempted a steal. James stayed in the game and connected on one of his ensuing free throws, but then exited to the locker room with Cleveland leading 47-36.
The Cavaliers said James had a neck sprain.
“I felt like I needed to go back to the locker room, which I did, and kind of recalibrate,” James said.