LeBron James has not missed the NBA Finals since 2010.
The Boston Celtics have not lost at home in the 2018 postseason heading into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
One of the two was going down and headed home early. It was inevitable.
James just made sure it wasn’t him.
The Cleveland Cavaliers rallied back from a slow start and held on late in the fourth quarter to beat the Celtics 87-79 on Sunday night at TD Garden in Boston, earning a trip to the NBA Finals — James’ eighth straight.
Boston’s quick start
It was a slow first half for the Cavaliers, who fell victim to an 11-4 Boston run to start the game behind seven quick points from Jayson Tatum.
Tatum cleared for takeoff pic.twitter.com/X623ivsDQE
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) May 28, 2018
By the midway point of the second quarter, the Celtics had built up a 12-point lead, and were threatening to run away with the game before halftime. Cleveland, though, mounted a 16-5 run to jump right back in it just before halftime, entering the locker room down just four points.
James dropped 17 points and went 6-of-12 from the field in the first half, scoring nearly half of Clevelands first half points. Boston big man Al Horford dominated inside early, too, putting up 14 points and missing just one field goal in the first half. Both teams, though, struggled from the 3-point line, shooting a combined 6-of-36 from behind the arc.
Cleveland’s third quarter defensive stand
The Cavaliers spent most of the third quarter, too, trying to fully overcome that 12-point hole they had fallen into in the first half — and used their defense to do it.
Cleveland gave up just 13 points in the third quarter, and had taken a small five-point lead by the midway point of the period. But perhaps the best example of that defensive stand came from James, who denied Terry Rozier at the rim with a massive block
Tatum posterizes James
Still down four points with nearly seven minutes left in the game, Tatum decided to take things into his own hands.
Tatum took the ball from the top of the key and drove to the rim with just one goal in mind: he was throwing it down.
It didn’t matter that James was under the rim, either. Tatum threw it down anyways, and even taunted James a little bit for good measure.
— NBA (@NBA) May 28, 2018
Tatum followed it up on the next possession with a huge 3-point bucket to give Boston the lead.
That lead, though, was short-lived, as the Celtics seemed to shut down offensively. They scored just two points over the next five minutes. By then, any chance of reaching the NBA Finals had slipped away. The Cavaliers took full advantage of that lull, too, mounting a 17-7 run to close out the game and roll to the eight-point win.
The box score
James led the way with 35 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists, shooting 12-of-24 from the field. Jeff Green also shot 50 percent from the field, adding 19 points for the Cavaliers. J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson also finished with double-figures, scoring 11 points and 10 points, respectively.
Tatum led Boston with 24 points and seven rebounds, shooting 9-of-17 from the field. Horford finished with 17 points, and Marcus Morris added 14. The Celtics went just 7-of-39 from behind the arc, shooting less than 18 percent.
Up next: 2018 NBA Finals
Cleveland will head to the NBA Finals, and take on the winner of the Western Conference Finals Game 7 on Monday night between the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors. Game 1 of that series will take place either in Houston or Oakland, California, on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.
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