By John ‘The Dude’ Hardiman, 985TheSportsHub.com
LeBron James goes off for 35 points to carry the Cleveland Cavaliers to a fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals, as they knock off the Boston Celtics, 87-79, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night.
Coming into the game, the Celtics were 23-8 all-time in Game 7’s, for the best mark in NBA history.
The Celtics jumped out to an early 11-4 lead just 3:41 into the game, behind a quick seven points (3-4 FG) from rookie sensation Jayson Tatum.
After trailing for the opening half of the first, the Kevin Love-less (concussion) Cavaliers tied things up at 13-13 with 4:46 left in the quarter.
And more than a minute later, the Cavs took their first lead of the game at 16-15, but the Celtics took it right back on their next possession.
Following a 9-0 run to close out the opening quarter, the Celtics took a 26-18 lead into the second behind 17 combined points from Tatum and Al Horford.
James finished the first with 12 points (4-8 FG), while the rest of the Cavs put up a combined six points (2-9 FG).
LeBron had no assists in the 1st quarter, the first time this postseason he's gone without an assist in the 1st quarter. The Cavaliers were 0-3 off his passes, all uncontested 3-pointers.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 28, 2018
The Celtics led by as many as 12 points in the second before their lead dwindled down to four at, 43-39, as they went into halftime.
Cleveland out-scored Boston 21-17 in the second, while going a 16-8 run during the closing stretch of the half.
During the Cavaliers' 16-8 run to end the 1st half, the Celtics shot 0-6 on uncontested 3-pointers including 0-3 by Jaylen Brown. Brown's 8 3-point attempts in the 1st half are tied for his most in any game this series.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 28, 2018
In the first half, the Celtics shot 38.6 percent from the field and went 4-for-19 from deep. And the Cavaliers shot 42.9 percent from the field and shot an abysmal 2-for-17 from beyond the arc.
The C’s were able to maintain their lead until more than halfway through the third when James and Cavs turned things around again to regain the lead before the close of the quarter.
After out-scoring the Celtics again, 20-13, in the third, the Cavaliers took a 59-56 lead into the final quarter of the East Finals.
The Celtics finally regained the lead 37 seconds into the fourth after hustling their way back behind an alley-oop dunk by Horford off of a Marcus Smart pass.
And then leave it to J.R. Smith to tie things up again at 64-64 just two minutes into the fourth.
The Celtics had a real chance to take advantage of some freebies in the final frame when the Cavs couldn’t control their fouling woes and went into the bonus for the final seven-plus minutes of the game.
Almost halfway through the fourth “King James” was reminded that there’s a new “Prince of Slam Bams” in town and his name is Jayson Tatum.
And then on the next possession Tatum knocked one down from deep to give the Celtics the lead once again at 72-71 after the Cavaliers pulled ahead in the early part of the fourth.
James and Cavaliers kept their foot on the gas down the final stretch of the fourth, as they went onto out-score the Celtics once again, 28-23, to hand the Celtics their first and only loss at home during the NBA Playoffs, with an 87-79, Game 7 win to seal the deal on their fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals. And not to mention LeBron’s eighth straight trip to the finals, where he’s 3-5 all-time.
Cleveland finished the game shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 25.7 percent from deep on 9-for-35.
Boston shot 34.1 percent from the field, while only knocking down 7-of-39 from deep for a miserable 17.9 percent.
The Cavaliers turned the ball over 13 times compared to the C’s six, and the Celtics out-rebounded the Cavs by one at 42-to-41.
And Cleveland hit 18-of-25 from the line, while the Celtics went 14-for-19.
Every starter for the Cavs finished as a plus, yet every C’s starter spotted a big, fat negative.
James led all scorers with 35 points (3-8 3PT), 15 rebounds and nine assists on 50 percent shooting from the field in 48 minutes.
Jeff Green, who got the start in place of the concussed Love, put up 19 for the Cavs and Smith and Tristan Thompson combined for 22 points.
The Cavaliers benched combined for five points.
Tatum led all Celtics scorers with 24 points (9-17 FG) and seven rebounds in 42 minutes.
Jayson Tatum is the first rookie to log 10 games of 20+ points in a single postseason since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1970— Celtics Stats (@celtics_stats) May 28, 2018
Horford finished with 17 points (7-12 FG), four rebounds and three assists.
Jaylen Brown had 13 points (5-18 FG) and six boards, while going 3-for-12 from deep.
Terry Rozier III scared himself and finished with four points (2-14 FG/0-10 3PT), four rebounds and fours assists.
Marcus Morris put up 14 points off the bench, while Smart had four points on 1-of-10 from the field and 0-for-4 from deep.
The Celtics finish the regular season 55-27 and the NBA Playoffs 11-8 (Home: 10-1, Away: 1-7) after knocking off the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games in the opening round and the Philadelphia 76ers in five games in the semi final round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, before falling to the Cavaliers in seven games in the East Finals.
LeBron and company will now wait for the winner of Monday night’s Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals between Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors and James Harden and the Houston Rockets to meet them in the NBA Finals.
The 2018 NBA Finals tips-off on Thursday, May 31 at 9:00 p.m. ET. on ABC.
NOTE: The Celtics had two chances to eliminate the Cavaliers in Game 6 and Game 7, but came up short in both after jumping out to a 2-0 series lead.
Here’s a couple tweets to chew on following the C’s Game 7 loss:
Celtics have shot 28.5 percent from the field since the first quarter. Seems high.— Brian Robb (@BrianTRobb) May 28, 2018
The Celtics are 0-11 on uncontested 3-pointers since the 1st quarter— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 28, 2018
John Hardiman is a Digital Producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for John? Hit him up on Twitter @HardiDude or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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