Cavaliers out to gain upper hand against top-seeded Celtics

By Thomson Reuters May 10, 2024 | 6:20 PM

The Cleveland Cavaliers have wrestled home-court advantage away from the top-seeded Boston Celtics.

The next task is not giving it right back.

After splitting two games in Boston, the fourth-seeded Cavaliers look to make a big statement when they host the Celtics on Saturday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference second-round series.

After being crushed 120-95 in Game 1, Cleveland thrashed the Celtics on Boston’s home floor in Game 2 and notched a 118-94 victory.

Cavaliers star guard Donovan Mitchell understood that it was a huge breakthrough but immediately turned the attention to Game 3 — suddenly the most important game of the playoffs for both teams.

“It’s always good to get a win on the road, but at the end of the day, it’s one game,” Mitchell said after scoring 29 points. “So it was good to get the win. We did a lot of really positive things. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.

“You got to go take care of home court. It’s nice to get this win, but at the end of the day, we got one day to prepare and get ready to protect home court.”

Boston is looking to bounce back quickly after it appeared it was going to roll through the series following the dominating Game 1 performance.

Trailing by as many as 29 in the second half of Game 2, after being tied at halftime, was a stunning development to the Celtics.

“Just get ready for Saturday,” said Boston star Jayson Tatum, who had 25 points in Game 2. “Nobody was in there defeated, deflated. I mean, you never want to lose, especially in the playoffs.

“There’s a lot of things we can learn from, and we get it — the world thinks we’re never supposed to lose. We’re supposed to win every game by 25. And it’s just not going to be like that all the time.”

Mitchell was one of three 20-point scorers for Cleveland on a night in which his club shot 54.7 percent from the field. Evan Mobley had 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists and Caris LeVert scored 21 points off the bench.

Mobley was a big factor on the defensive end as Boston shot just 41.3 percent from the field. Tatum and Jaylen Brown (19 points) were both 7 of 17 from the field and Derrick White (10 points) was 3 of 11. White scored 25 points in Game 1.

“That’s where he’s at his best, continuing to protect the paint,” Mitchell said of Mobley. “Especially having him guard on the ball, and being able to deter them on their shots and layups. …

“It’s not easy attacking Evan like that, so just having him able to be that dominant, but also give us offensive production, was big time.”

Mobley’s play in the interior was huge with center Jarrett Allen (ribs) again sidelined. Allen has missed five straight games and is listed as questionable for Saturday.

Boston big man Kristaps Porzingis (calf) will miss his fourth straight game.

The Celtics went an NBA-best 64-18 during the regular season, so adversity was served in a minimum dose.

Brown, though, was highly concerned with the Game 2 loss.

“It was just a bad game,” Brown said. “Obviously we didn’t shoot the ball very well, but defensively it was an unacceptable performance, and I think that’s where we look at that, and I’m the most upset.

“Defensively we gave up 118 points, and on top of that we lost the rebound battle (44-31). So we didn’t help ourselves.”

Now Boston finds itself in a big battle to regain control of the series.

“We don’t expect it to be easy,” Tatum said. “These are good teams we’re playing, second round of the playoffs. So this is going to be fun the rest of this series and especially come Saturday. We’ve bounced back plenty of times.”

–Field Level Media