Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The whiplash Eastern Conference playoffs continued Tuesday with the young, tough Boston Celtics holding off a big LeBron James performance to take a 2-0 lead in their series. This was a weird, weird game. LeBron took a blow to the head early, put up a 42-point triple-double … and still looked out of it most of the night.
Boston’s defense is putting the screws to Cleveland’s plan at every turn. The Cavs shot just 32 percent from deep. Take away LeBron and Kevin Love, and the other Cavs shot just 3-14 from three. Cleveland had 15 turnovers too, including six (some bad) from James and an inexplicable five from Jeff Green.
The Celtics, who should not be able to take care of the ball or hit threes, had just five total turnovers and hit the same rate of threes as the team starring Love and Kyle Korver. That’s rough. Cleveland’s defense just hasn’t been good enough to counter the effect Boston’s stellar defense is having on the Cavs attack.
The series isn’t over by any stretch, but the Cavaliers’ backs are against the wall. Boston has a real chance here not just to knock LeBron out of the playoffs for the third time in history (2008 and 2010), but potentially to end this current Cleveland run of dominance for good. With every loss, it really feels like LeBron is a step closer to leaving in free agency. We don’t know anything about his plans. But this sure feels like an end of an era, just as the 2010 Boston-Cleveland series does in retrospect.
Figured we’d start the morning with some national perspective and it’s more pro-Celtics than just about anything in the local papers.
I was not expecting a Celtics victory last night in Game 2. I was expecting LeBron James to dominate from tip. He dominated, but only for about 12 minutes. The rest of the game, James was sub-par by King standards (and I’m fairly certain he played through a concussion).
Meanwhile, the Celtics damage came from all angles.
Jaylen Brown was spectacular in the 1st quarter. He single-handedly kept the Celtics afloat while Bron was going nuts. Jayson Tatum took the baton in the 2nd quarter and rattled off 9 points.
The 3rd quarter belonged to Scary Terry (14 points). And Al Horford (8 points) slammed the door shut at the end of the 4th quarter.
And not to be outdone, Marcus Smart sprinkled gritty, gutty plays throughout the entire game.
This team is relentless. And the Cavaliers don’t appear to have any fight left.
Excuses are pouring out of Cleveland. Look no further than LeBron’s personal PR/fan boy reporter Brian Windhorst:
The Cavs aren’t just battling the ascendant Celtics, they are battling an enemy that has dogged LeBron James teams in the past: It’s organizational fatigue, and it’s very real.
Like the Miami Heat before them and to a certain extent the last generation’s Cavs, it seems to be a side effect of having James: where the quest for championships combined with a lack of security over keeping James leads to some win-now, pay-later decisions.
Acquire older veterans instead of developing younger players. Sign players to large contracts because they fit with James or because they can’t be replaced if they leave in free agency. Trade draft picks to get veterans or as a way to relieve payroll pressure. Deal with the stress of repeated long playoff runs, endure massive media scrutiny, manage varying degrees of drama.
The players get sick of one another. They get sick of the coach. The coach gets sick of the players. As a group, they lose sight of the process of the season because it becomes monotonous. There are highs — with James teams there are always highs — but the baggage everyone is carrying makes the flight that much harder to maintain.
Poor Cleveland. Wahhh, wahhh!
On Page 2, Tyronn Lue says the Celtics are ‘gooning the game up.’
“They’re gooning the game up, and we’ve got to do the same thing,” the Cavaliers coach said. “We’ve got to be tougher, mentally and physically. … We’ve got to be tougher. I think they’re playing tougher than we are. We see that. They’re being physical.”
“Gooning? That’s a good word. (Expletive), we’re doing what it takes,” Morris said. “Whatever it takes, every player 1-15, whatever it takes, that’s what we’re doing. You call it what you want to call it. We’re just trying to get the win.”
Jaylen Brown was intrigued by the word, too.
“I don’t even know what to say to that. I agree, I guess,” he said.
Goon is clearly the wrong word here because it implies dirty play and that belongs to JR Smith.
The Celtics are simply tougher.
The only guy with any real fight in him is Tristan Thompson.
And while the media is going to bend over backwards to praise the greatness of James and even Lue, it’s obvious neither is doing enough to motivate the Cavs. (The supporting cast might be shooting like crap, but they should at least be hustling.)
Here’s an example of leadership from 1984:
“To see guys out there, runnin’ up and down and slapping high-fives… you’d think somebody would want to put a stop to it,” Bird said.
”We played like sissies,” Bird said. ”I can’t believe a team like this would let LA come out and push us around like they did.
And from last night (via Mass Live):
“I’m going to go home tonight and see my three kids, see my family, recalibrate, see my mom. I think I’ll be fine. I’m not going to lose sleep over it. You go out and when you lay everything on the line, at the end of the day, you can live with that. I’ll recalibrate as far as how I can help this team continue to be successful, how I can do some things to make us be even more complete.”
Legend over the King, all day, every day.
And finally, no lottery luck for the Celtics.
By not getting the Lakers pick this year, Boston will get the first-round pick from Sacramento or Philadelphia next year, whichever is better (let’s just call it the Kings pick to save space, shall we?).
However, if the Kings’ pick is the top overall selection they keep it, which would then mean Boston would wind up with Philly’s first-rounder next year. That will probably be somewhere in the 20s.
So Boston — for now — will go into this June’s draft with only its own first-rounder, the 27th overall selection.
The Kings netted the 2nd pick in this year’s draft but they’ll still be a terrible team next year.
It’s all gravy anyways.
The rest of the links