The Cavaliers will be fine, according to their leader LeBron James.
James — who said he had “zero level of concern” after their Game 1 loss — was calm and collected at the podium following his team’s second straight defeat to the Celtics. Prior to Game 2 Tuesday, the Cavaliers had yet to drop back-to-back contests this postseason.
“I’m not going to lose sleep over it,” James said. “You go out and when you lay everything on the line, at the end of the day, you can live with that.”
Despite jumping out to an 11-point lead in the first half, Cleveland couldn’t hold on for what would have been a momentum-shifting win. Turnovers and lack of scoring options derailed the Cavaliers’ efforts, as the Celtics pulled ahead for the 107-94 victory and 2-0 series lead.
James, who came out firing from the jump, was hardly the problem. The 33-year-old scored 21 points in the first quarter, surpassing his Game 1 scoring total in a matter of seven and a half minutes. With 42 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists, James notched the 22nd triple-double of his playoff career. He also logged his fifth 40-point game of this year’s playoffs — the most he’s ever had in a single postseason.
But the Celtics were effective in mitigating his monster outing.
“I think the biggest thing is we’re just trying to make it as hard as possible,” Stevens said. “I think that we all have a good grasp on that that’s not always going to work, so don’t hang your head, go down and score. And then if you can make it as hard as possible for as long as possible, maybe you can get somewhere.”
While Marcus Morris has been the primary option to guard James, both Jaylen Brown and Semi Ojeleye defended him throughout Game 2 as well.
“I thought Semi did a good job on the couple of possessions he guarded him, which is really hard to just come off the bench not in the flow of the game and put a body in front of him, but he’s unbelievable,” Stevens said.
Marcus Morris has been one of the few players who can slow down LeBron James. In two games, James has only 11 points on 4-14 shooting when being defended by Morris pic.twitter.com/UuPqxsF1vv
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 16, 2018
The two teams will have a bit of an extended break before Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday, after which the game schedule reverts to the typical one day of rest in between contests.
“I’ll recalibrate as far as how I can help this team continue to be successful and how I can do some things to make us be even more complete,” James said. “We have a few days, and we’re going to see what we’re made of on Saturday.”
The three-time NBA champion is facing a 2-0 series deficit in the Eastern Conference for the first time in nearly a decade. Unlike the Celtics, the Cavaliers don’t have a perfect record at home this postseason — having lost Game 1 of their first-round series against the Pacers — but they’ll need to find a way to do pull of at least one win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“We have an opportunity to go back home, protect home court,” James said. “We’re going to use these days to really dive in on what needs to be done to help our ball club be successful. They did what they had to do, and that was protect home, and now it’s our time to try to do that, as well.”