The Cavaliers edged out the Celtics in Boston on Sunday night to advance to the NBA Finals. LeBron James will play in his eighth consecutive Finals appearance.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are going back to the NBA Finals again. The Cavaliers stopped the Celtics improbable postseason run with a 87-79 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston fought valiantly, but simply could not make shots to overtake Cleveland.
Boston jumped out to an early lead behind inspired play from Al Horford. Cleveland’s defense struggled against Boston’s pick-and-roll and Horford made them pay. He scored 14 points in the first half on 6-for-7 shooting. LeBron James carried the Cavaliers early on to keep them in the game.
Marksmanship was a scarcity in this game. The Celtics and Cavaliers shot just 17 percent and 20 percent from long range, respectively. The shooting woes subsided a little in the fourth quarter as both teams traded buckets. James took over the game down the stretch again. He got to the foul line and made tough shots to keep the pressure on. Ultimately, Boston did not have enough to dethrone the man who still owns the East.
LeBron James was not going out like that. James scored 35 points, snagged 15 rebounds and dished 9 assists in another stellar Game 7 performance. He scored the first 10 points for Cleveland to keep them afloat until his teammates started contributing. James hit timely threes, made critical assists and played 48 minutes in this hotly contested game.
Jeff Green provided James just enough help to edge out Boston. Green scored 19 points and hit a clutch corner three late in the fourth quarter. James credited the play of his teammates after the game, but what a feat for him to carry this team to the NBA Finals.
The Celtics couldn’t throw it in the Charles River. Boston routinely got open looks against Cleveland’s porous defense. They chucked bricks from all over the floor. Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier were not able to replicate their brilliant performances in Game 6. Brown and Rozier combined to shoot 6-for-28 from the field. Marcus Smart shot 1-for-9 and missed all four of his 3-point tries. The Celtics shot just 34 percent from the field and 18 percent from distance for the game.
Boston finally showed its youth in this pivotal game. They have had to rely heavily on their young players in the absence of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. And those young guys just could not generate enough quality offense down the stretch to win this game.
Jayson Tatum is the future of Celtics basketball. The 20-year-old All-Rookie First Team selection did not shy away from this moment. Tatum scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds. He repeatedly got to his spots on the floor all night. Tatum hit tough shots and threw down a vicious dunk over LeBron James midway through the fourth quarter. He took on the challenge of guarding James and never backed down against the NBA’s best player.
Tatum will be a force in this league for many years to come. It will be interesting to see how Brad Stevens uses him once Irving and Hayward are back on the floor. Regardless, the St. Louis native is far too skilled to be a supplementary piece.