Now, we have our answer.
In Game 2 on Tuesday night, Boston showed they were the stronger team yet again by following a strict gameplan: switch on LeBron and do the best you can, then rotate out on Cleveland's shooters to neutralize the rest of the Cavaliers roster. Brad Stevens even said as much during an interview during the broadcast, so it wasn't a surprise when that appeared to be Boston's approach.
It worked like a charm.
LeBron was magnificent in the first half, scoring 25 points and accounting for 15 shots compared to 18 for the rest of Cleveland's starters. Although a knock to the face put him back in the locker room with a neck strain for a few moments, it was clear that James was on a warpath from the start. The only problem was that Boston wasn't giving way, and the Cavaliers took just a 55-48 lead into the half.
And yet, it was the Celtics and their steady approach that turned the tide during the final two quarters.
Terry Rozier went off, Marcus Smart out-hustled everyone on the floor, and Marcus Morris came up big as Boston outscored Cleveland, 36-22, in the third quarter. That allowed for a swing not only on the scoreboard, but in momentum. LeBron, perhaps slowed by his neck getting dinged up or just from carrying the Cavaliers franchise for a decade, seemed off the rest of the game. His fadeaways clanged off the side of the iron, and his 3-point attempts started coming up short.
Things got a little heated late in the game as JR Smith underhandedly pushed Al Horford in the back while he was airborne, leading to a Flagrant 1 for Smith. Smart, who rushed to the aid of his teammate, earned a technical along with Smith for some pushing after the play.
Yet no amount of bad blood could spoil Boston's gameplan, even with James posting another impressive stat line. The Celtics defense poured it on, clamping down even harder in the fourth quarter and allowing just 17 points.
James would finish the game with a triple-double of 42 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. Kevin Love added 22 points and 15 rebounds, but only Kyle Korver scored in double figures for the Cavaliers.
For Boston it was another team effort, with Jaylen Brown leading the way with 23 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Horford posted a double-double of 15 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. All five Celtics starters scored in double figures.
Game 3 is in Cleveland on Saturday. LeBron will have some time to think about what the Cavaliers can do to get back in this series. Theres not much else The King can enact himself. He needs a better tactical approach by Ty Lue and execution from his supporting cast.
Meanwhile, the Celtics let James go nuts and still won. Now, Boston has a 2-0 series lead heading back to Ohio.