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Game 2 Preview: Cavaliers vs. Celtics

Basketball Insiders previews Game 2 of the Cavaliers vs. Celtics series.

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#2 – Cleveland Cavaliers

If there was any doubt about how Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson would perform in their playoff debuts, those concerns were put to rest on Sunday afternoon. In fact, watching those three out on the court, you would have thought they had years of experience playing in the postseason.

Irving led all scorers in the Cavaliers’ 113-100 victory with 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting from the field, Love had 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Thompson had 12 points and six rebounds off of the bench (including four offensive boards). Those contributions don’t even include what LeBron James did, as the four-time Most Valuable Player had 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds in 42 minutes in his first postseason game with Cleveland in five years.

The Cavaliers began the game with a slow start. The Celtics were able to outscore them 31-27 after the first quarter, and Boston led by as many as eight points at one point. The Cavs’ perimeter defenders struggled in that opening quarter as Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas was able to blow right past defenders to attack the rim. In addition, Celtics center Kelly Olynyk went to work against the Cavs’ defense by scoring 10 points on 4-4 shooting to start the game.

As the game progressed, the Cavs came together and played the game like many anticipated. They outscored the Celtics 86-69 over the last three quarters to take the Game 1 win. It’ll likely take a near-perfect effort from the Celtics to take down the Cavs at Quicken Loans Arena, so expect a similar result in Game 2 on Tuesday.

#7 – Boston Celtics

Despite the defeat on Sunday, the Celtics surprised a lot of those watching by the way they started the game off. In the early going, it seemed like they were a team with plenty of playoff experience, jumping out to an eight-point lead. Their offensive attack seemed to be working with Isaiah Thomas’ ability to penetrate and Kelly Olynyk’s ability to work the paint. But after the first quarter, it seemed like the Cavs just flipped a switch and began to take over the game. The Celtics even began to look rattled at times, which caused them to start taking bad shots.

One area for concern for Brad Stevens’ squad will be the offensive glass. The Cavs were able to out-rebound the C’s on the offensive end 15-7 in the game and held a 10-1 advantage at halftime. Thompson, Love and Timofey Mozgov held it down by each contributing at least three offensive rebounds to help the Cavs to more second-chance scoring. Expect Stevens to make some adjustments on that end of the floor moving forward to help eliminate those increased scoring opportunities for the Cavs.

The Celtics showed on Sunday that the series may not be as lopsided as once thought. The team flashed some grit throughout the game and proved that even when they were down by 20 points in the third quarter that they’d keep fighting and then fired off a 14-0 run to cut the deficit to just six points. The ability to go on that large of a run against a stacked Cavaliers team should help this young Celtics squad throughout the rest of the series and provide them with confidence moving forward.

The Celtics already proved that they’re capable of hanging around with the Cavs, but it will be up to them to play near-perfect basketball the rest of the way and to put together a complete game to steal some wins. Being such a young team, that may be easier said than done.

Who Wins Game 2?

The Celtics’ chance of stealing a win or two likely won’t come until the series shifts to Boston so expect the Cavs to put them in an 0-2 hole after Game 2.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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