5 pivotal plays from the Celtics’ Game 6 defeat

Celtics Cavaliers Basketball
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens reacts during the second half of Game 6. –AP Photo/Ron Schwane

LeBron James missed out on a triple-double by one assist in Game 6. That was just about the only thing he missed during the 109-99 win that kept the Cavaliers’ season alive.

James had 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. His supporting cast stepped up at the Quicken Loans Arena in a way they haven’t on the road as George Hill, Larry Nance, and Jeff Green contributed double-digit efforts. Terry Rozier (28 points) and Jaylen Brown (27) fired back, but early turnovers hampered the Celtics’ chances of returning to Boston with Finals tickets in hand.

Here are some of the pivotal plays from Game 6:

Marcus Smart fires a no-look pass to Jaylen Brown for three

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The first truly pivotal play in Game 6 occurred when Jayson Tatum tried to chase George Hill through traffic at the 6:58 mark of the first quarter. The Celtics forward collided with Kevin Love, who left the game with a concussion after Tatum’s shoulder caught his chin. Both players were shaken up on the play, but Love took the brunt of the impact and needed assistance walking off the court.

Four minutes later, the Celtics made a run to seize a rare road lead. Tatum threw the ball down low to Al Horford, who found Marcus Smart cutting into the paint. Instead of going straight up for a contested layup, Smart whipped an over-the-shoulder pass to Brown in the corner. Brown drilled the three-pointer to put the Celtics up 19-15 with 2:07 left in the first quarter.

Brown went on to score on the Celtics’ next three possessions, driving for two layups and pulling up for a 20-foot jumper as the clock ticked down. He finished the opening 12 minutes with 15 points and Boston led 25-20 at the break.

One turnover too many and Brad Stevens calls timeout

Turnovers were the story of the second quarter for the Celtics. After one especially egregious giveaway, Brad Stevens asked for an opportunity to regroup. The play capped a 20-4 run by the Cavaliers that allowed them to grasp control of Game 6.

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Midway through the quarter, Marcus Morris tried to throw an entry pass inside to Rozier. Larry Nance Jr. plucked the overly-ambitious effort out of the air. Nance took two dribbles before handing off to Jordan Clarkson and watching Clarkson lay the ball in with ease. The turnover was the seventh of the game for Boston (the Celtics had eight total in Game 5) and the Cavs led 44-34.

LeBron James has one of his signature chase-down blocks

One of the most memorable moments of LeBron James’s career is the block from Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals when he pinned Andre Iguodala’s dunk to the backboard in the dying minutes. On Friday night, one round and one game earlier, he delivered a similar chase-down stop.

Terry Rozier drove into the paint and tried to loft a finger-roll layup towards the Cavaliers basket. The ball had hardly left his hand before James swatted it into the first row. Tristan Thompson added a block of his own off the Celtics inbound play, then J.R. Smith had a chance for a dagger three-pointer that would have sent the Quicken Loans Arena into hysterics. He missed, but down the other end Tatum did not from 27 feet.

Tatum’s three-pointer forced Ty Lue to call timeout and kept the Celtics within 13 points at the 7:18 mark of the third quarter.

Terry Rozier drills a three to end the third quarter

There were still 13 points between the sides with 1:28 left in the quarter. After a couple Cleveland misses, the teams traded three-pointers until the buzzer sounded. Morris was first up, with a 27-foot jumper off an assist by Rozier that sliced the lead to 10. Then Kyle Korver answered, splashing from well behind the arc to push the lead back again. Korver’s three-pointer would have given the Cavs all the momentum heading into the final 12 minutes, if it wasn’t for one Rozier.

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Rozier, who had a team-high 28 points and seven assists on the night, curled around a screen and buried his fifth three-pointer of the game to cut the lead to 10 once more.

LeBron hits two ridiculous threes from the same spot

With 4:27 left in Game 6, Tatum dunked to pull the Celtics within seven points. On the next Cavaliers possession, Marcus Smart made an incredible play to dive on a loose ball and wrench it away from James. He passed it to Rozier, who found Brown for an open three-pointer. The 21-year-old could not convert, and that was as close as the Celtics came in the final minutes.

James put the exclamation mark on Cleveland’s win with back-to-back, step-back threes. There were two minutes left when he first sized up Tatum, feinted a drive, then stepped back and swished from long range. Tatum replied with two points. Then James walked him back into the same spot, skipped back, and launched a nearly identical three-pointer. Same result. James roared and the Cavaliers claimed Game 6.