Cavaliers steamroll Celtics to take 2-0 lead
BOSTON -- Charles Barkley walked into TD Garden for Friday night’s television gig and greeted a familiar face with the words: “Came in for this mercy killing.”
Sir Charles clearly had no idea how right he would be.
The defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers exploded to a 41-point halftime lead -- the largest halftime advantage in playoff history -- and cruised to 130-86 blowout of the Boston Celtics to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
“It was a good 48-minute game for us on both ends of the ball. We played all the way through for 48 minutes,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said after the biggest playoff win ever for the Cavaliers.
The Celtics suffered their worst postseason home loss in history and fell just three points shy of matching their worst playoff defeat. Boston trailed 72-31 at the half.
“It’s one game,” said Lue. “I don’t care if you win by 200 points. It’s one game, and we know this team is a very scrappy team. They play hard and compete.”
LeBron James, who scored 22 of his 30 points in the first half, has never lost a playoff series when up 2-0 and this series now shifts to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4 Sunday and Tuesday, with outmanned Boston perhaps missing star guard Isaiah Thomas.
Thomas was lost to a right hip strain at halftime. He was scoreless, missing all six shots in the first half, but he did assist on six of his team’s 11 baskets in the half.
”He’s had a nagging hip injury,“ said Boston coach Brad Stevens. ”He aggravated it pretty significantly on Friday in Washington, Game 6.
“Today I thought he looked much different in the first half. When he went back to the locker room our training staff and doctors got with him. He was pretty despondent not to be able to play. That guy’s a tough guy and he plays through a lot. For him to have to sit is really hard.”
Thomas didn’t miss much.
Asked how much his team missed its top scorer, Stevens said, ”Not 44 points’ worth. I don’t want to put that on any one guy.
“I think ultimately they were terrific, we were poor.”
The win was the 13th straight playoff victory for the Cavs, who have not lost since Game 4 of last year’s NBA Finals. The streak tied an NBA record.
James, the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1970) with eight straight 30-point playoff games, and the rest of the Cleveland starters were pulled with 1:47 left in the third quarter.
James, who was a plus-46 in the game (plus-63 in two games), dished out seven assists and added four rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots. He is averaging 34.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.1 assists in the playoffs, shooting 56.9 percent from the floor and 45.8 percent from 3-point range.
The plus-46 matched Jimmy Butler’s 2015 performance at Milwaukee -- a stat that is tracked back only as far as 2003.
Earlier in the day, James was not one of the three finalists for the league Most Valuable Player Award.
”I didn’t see it. What you going to do about it?“ James said. ”At the end of the day, my only job is try to be the MVP for this team every night.
“I know what I bring to the table. This league knows what I bring to the table. That’s for you guys to write about. That’s not for me to be concerned about.”
Kevin Love had 21 points and 12 rebounds and Kyrie Irving 23 points for Cleveland. The trio went a combined 11 of 21 from 3-point range.
The Cavs, who went 19 of 39 from 3-point range (Boston was 8 of 27), have never trailed in the first two games.
”We just want to try to get better,“ James said. ”I also told you (earlier this season) we had another level. You looked at me crazy. I told you that. I believe we have another level as well.
”As well as we played tonight, there’s still some things we could have (done) better.
Rookie Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 19 points and Avery Bradley had 13. But Bradley was a minus-42, one shy of Draymond Green’s record.
“We got our (butt) kicked. Point blank, period,” said Brown. “Defending champs. They swept us off the floor.”
NOTES: The Celtics made one lineup change, starting G/F Gerald Green in place of F Amir Johnson. “He’s always been ready, and he always stays ready,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said of Green, who logged 13:44 and scored 11 points off the bench in Game 1. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue called it a “smart? Move” and he hit a pair of first-quarter 3-pointers. ... The Cavaliers shrugged off two aggressive plays by Boston G Isaiah Thomas in the opener, the second a hard foul on a driving LeBron James that actually knocked the smaller Thomas’ headband from his head. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was,” said Lue, who was asking for a review for a potential flagrant. ... The Cavaliers won their two home games against Boston in the regular season by six points apiece but the Celtics haven’t played in Cleveland since Dec. 29.n League lead with 11.