The Cavs handed the Celtics a record playoff loss, and this series is over
The Cleveland Cavaliers opened the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals with a dominant road win that sent a clear message to the Boston Celtics that they are not yet among the NBA’s elite. However, it was hard to imagine that such an overwhelming blowout could take place again in Friday night’s Game 2. The Celtics have a reputation as a team that gets by on effort, and the combination of an adjustment to the challenges of their opponent and playing in front of a loud home crowd appeared to set the stage for a more competitive contest.
If anything, Game 2 only saw the Cavaliers dominate the Celtics in more complete fashion. The Cavaliers opened up their first double-digit lead with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter and never looked back, leading 32-18 after the opening period and taking the second by an absurd 40-13 margin. An absurd first half culminated in a J.R. Smith buzzer-beater to make it 72-31, setting a new NBA record for halftime margin in a playoff game.
Cleveland added to its margin in the third quarter and led by as many as 50 points before settling on a 130-86 final. It’s the worst home playoff loss in Boston’s storied history (shattering the previous record of 29) and the worst loss ever for a No. 1 seed in the postseason. It’s also the highest-scoring and largest playoff win in Cavs franchise history. The Cavs have also won 13 straight playoff games, matching the NBA record set by the 1988-89 Los Angeles Lakers.
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The Cavs still have to win two more games to end the Eastern Conference Finals, but anything less than a sweep would come as a surprise. The Celtics look like they know it’s over.
Not surprisingly, LeBron James led the way. After claiming that he and the Cavs weren’t at their best in their Game 1 win, LeBron backed up the warning with a stellar performance. He finished with 30 points (12-of-18 FG), seven assists, four steals, and three blocks in 30 minutes, but his impact went beyond the numbers. His first-half plus-minus of plus-40 set a new personal best for any half in his career, and his full-game plus-45 ranks second for anyone in the playoffs since 2001. Simply put, James is in full control of this series and doesn’t look ready to yield. Who needs to be an MVP finalist when you can dominate games so easily?