No Longer Traveling Lightly (Cavaliers at Celtics; Game 2)

Erica Denhoff/ALOST


akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

BOSTON — Not only is the oft-cited aphorism about a postseason series not officially getting interesting until the road team wins apropos after the stellar performance produced by the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night, but they can finally state as a fact that they can produce their best away from the shadow of Lake Erie after a six-year bout of NBA Playoffs travel sickness.

Donovan Mitchell scored 23 of his 29 points in the second half, a stretch in which the Cavaliers shot a blistering 58.8 percent from the field, as Cleveland was part of another blowout inside TD Garden, but came out on the winning end after a 118-94 stunner over the Boston Celtics to tie the Eastern Conference semifinals series. The win was the first away from home in the NBA Playoffs for Cleveland since Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, when the LeBron James-led Cavaliers downed the Celtics in the same building to advance to the NBA Finals.

That Finals series six years ago saw Cleveland lose both its games in Oakland on its way to getting swept during LeBron’s final four games as a Cavalier. Since then, the same nightmares away from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse had carried over, with the pair of defeats in the Big Apple during last year’s first-round elimination at the hands of the New York Knicks morphing into more ghastly performances during this year’s postseason.

So, of course, we all saw the Cavaliers, losers by 25 to the best team in the NBA this season, opening up a lead of almost 30 by the fourth quarter tonight, right?!

“Our focus and our conversation was tonight we needed to be better than we were in the first game. And I thought our guys took that to heart,” said Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. “These games come down to execution, and who executes the best is the team that typically is going to win the game. And I thought our guys executed the game plan tonight to a T, and did what they had to do to make it extremely difficult on Boston. That works whether you’re at home or on the road.”

The well-known cliches of what has to happen for a team to win on the road in the playoffs— star players playing as such, role players stepping up, staunch defense — all went the Cavaliers way, starting with Mitchell, who was more of a facilitator in the first half (six points, five assists) before turning it on to start the third.

“I hadn’t shot much, trying to find ways to get guys involved early and picking my spots. I was just continuing to find ways to apply pressure on them,” Mitchell said.

“In the second half, it was scoring. Sometimes it’s assists. Sometimes it’s rebounds. Whatever it takes. And when it was time to go, it’s time to go. I knew at some point I was going to have to start, obviously, shooting.”.

Before Mitchell’s emergence, he had help from players such as Evan Mobley and super sub Caris LeVert, who combined for 19 of Cleveland’s 30 points in the first quarter. LeVert, who managed just four points in 26 minutes in Game 1, went off for 21 points tonight as he joined all five Cleveland starters in double figures in scoring.

The third quarter for the Cavaliers might have been ripped out of a blueprint detailing how to win a playoff game in a hostile environment. The Cavaliers outscored Boston 36-24 in the stanza, making a blistering 7-of-10 from behind the arc in turning a tie score at halftime into a double-digit lead to start the fourth. Mitchell made four of his five attempts from three, while backcourt mate Darius Garland made all three of his long-range efforts.

While the shooting cooled just a tad in the fourth, the Cavaliers’ defense continued to raise its level, holding the disjointed Celtics to 6-of-17 shooting and just 16 points in the frame.

“We had some shots fall for us, finally,” said Bickerstaff. “And when we defend the way that we defended and the shots start to fall, what we do travels, and we can win anywhere.”

Facebook Comments Box
Tags : Boston CelticsCleveland CavaliersNational Basketball AssociationNBA Playoffs

Leave a Response