Even after handling the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, small forward LeBron James felt the Cleveland Cavaliers could play better, and maybe, just maybe he was onto something.
The Cavaliers stormed out to a 40-point lead in the first half and never looked back, as they closed out a 130-86 victory at TD Garden in Boston, which gave them a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series heading into Game 3 at Quicken Loans Arena Sunday night.
The 130 points were a single-game franchise record in postseason play.
The Cavaliers were so dominant in the first three quarters that “The Big Three” of James, point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Kevin Love did not play a single second in the fourth quarter. In fact, they were pulled with 76 seconds left in the third quarter.
As he did in Game 1, James led the way for the Cavaliers in Game 2, as he scored a game-high 30 points with a 12-of-18 shooting performance. James buried four of his six looks from three-point range and went eight for 12 inside the arc.
Additionally, James pulled down four rebounds, handed out seven assists, stole four passes and blocked three shots over 33 minutes. James was a plus-45 in the lopsided victory, and he got plenty of help in the scoring department.
Irving more than doubled his Game 1 total of 11 points with 23 by knocking down eight of his 11 attempts, including three three-pointers. Irving added one rebound, three assists, one steal and a blocked shot in 30 minutes.
Thanks in part to his four three-pointers, Love accounted for 21 points and registered a double-double by corralling 12 rebounds, including three on the offensive end of the floor.
Rounding out the starting five, shooting guard J.R. Smith and center Tristan Thompson combined for 16 points in the Game 2 win. Off the bench, small forward Richard Jefferson scored 10 points.
As a team, the Cavaliers converted 48 of their 85 looks from the field and 19 of their 39 attempts from three-point range. James, Love, Irving and Jefferson, as well as reserve guards Iman Shumpert and Kyle Korver, each knocked down at least two three-pointers in the game.
Out of the gate in Game 2, the Cavaliers buckled down defensively and hustled their way to open looks on the offensive end of the floor, which led to a 32-18 lead over the Celtics after the first quarter.
After scoring 11 points in Game 1, Irving came out strong and scored nine points on four-of-seven shooting, and Love added eight, six of which came off of a pair of three-pointers.
Offensively, the Cavaliers found their rhythm first and rode the momentum to a 9-2 advantage over the first four-plus minutes of the game thanks to the three-point shot.
After Irving hit a reverse jumper in the lane with his left hand and James knocked down one of his two attempts from the free-throw line, Love caught a pass from James and buried a three-pointer from the right wing.
Following missed triples by both teams, the ball found its way to shooting guard J.R. Smith via Irving, and the veteran sharpshooter knocked down the three-pointer from the wing, which gave the Cavaliers a seven-point advantage early.
Although the Celtics made a run and cut the deficit to just one point, 11-10, with 6:35 to play, the Cavaliers had an answer in the form of a 10-0 spurt out of a timeout, and that gave them an 11-point lead with 4:22 to play in the quarter.
Irving accounted for three of those points, one on a technical free throw and two more on a driving layup. Then, Love caught a pass from James on the left wing and swished his second three-pointer of the first quarter.
On a 2-on-1 situation with James, Smith ran the floor and converted a layup, which Irving followed up with a jumper that forced the Celtics into a timeout. Out of the break, the Cavaliers outscored the Celtics, 11-8, over the final four minutes of the quarter.
The Cavaliers struggled from three-point range early in Game 1, but that was far from the case from the start of Game 2.
The Cavaliers made 10 three-pointers in the first half, and used that momentum to build a 72-31 halftime lead over the Celtics.
Starting late in the first quarter with a driving layup from Irving, the Cavaliers went on a 23-4 scoring run over a six-plus minute stretch and staked themselves out to a 53-22 lead over the Celtics with 6:15 to play in the first half.
The Cavaliers held the Celtics to one basket and just four points over the first six minutes of the second quarter, and it was the three-point ball that put Cleveland ahead by 30-plus points.
At the 7:46 mark of the quarter, James caught a swing pass from Love and buried a step-back three-pointer from 23 feet away. One minute later, reserve guard Iman Shumpert knocked down a wide-open look from the right corner of the floor and gave the Cavaliers a 50-22 advantage.
Out of the timeout, James buried another three-pointer, and Irving followed with a 29-foot triple of his own from the right wing. Love continued the run when he converted a three-pointer and threw down a driving dunk that was set up by a pass from Irving.
Love’s fourth triple of the first half gave the Cavaliers a 40-point lead, 66-26, with 2:59 to play in the second quarter.
Smith hustled after an offensive rebound and buried a fade-away jumper along the baseline as the first half came to a close.
The Cavaliers were not happy with the way they played in the third quarter of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but they made some improvements out of the halftime break in Game 2, and they were quite successful.
The Cavaliers outpaced the Celtics by five points in the third period and took a 103-57 lead into the fourth quarter at TD Garden in Boston. The Cavaliers held a 31-26 advantage in third-quarter scoring and limited the Celtics to under 30 points for the sixth time in seven quarters.