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Game Recap: LeBron Drops 41 in Cavalier Comeback against Celtics 122-121

@SportsCenter

Boston is a special place for LeBron James. It was the place where he learned from defeat, and in his first tenure with the Cavs, it’s where LeBron wore a Cavaliers uniform. Tonight brought the story to full circle with a classic roller coaster rally by the Cavs over the Celtics, 122-111. LeBron led the game with a season high 41 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists all while shooting 69.5% from the floor. With Kyrie Irving’s 27 points and 5 assists, Kevin Love’s 15 clutch rebounds and Anderson Varejao’s 16 points, the Cavs reciprocated a 17 point deficit into a dreamy comeback: HIGHLIGHTS!

{adinserter 2}The Celtics, having controlled most of the game, finished with a balanced distribution of offense in which 7 Celtics scored double-digits compared to 4 for Cleveland. Boston Center Kelly Olynyk led the Celtics with 21 points and 6 rebounds; supporting him were Rajon Rondo’s 16 assists and Jared Sullinger’s solid 19-10 double-double performance. Contrary to most predictions, the Cavs didn’t pay heed to David Blatt’s most stressed concern after the Cavs’ recent victory over the New Orleans Pelicans:

“We beat a very good team. But I’m more concerned than happy. We want to beat teams consistently? Can’t allow ourselves to be lethargic on defense at any point in the game.”

First Half: Stalemate

Fortunately, with LeBron making his presence known early in the game, Cleveland evened the scoreboard. Kevin Love struggled tonight shooting 2-10 but made his contributions on the glass as Kyrie and LeBron created plenty offense. The Cavs have started to show consistent ball movement and tempo control by pushing the ball down the court:

Even finishing tied at halftime, Coach Blatt witnessed holes in the Cavs defense that highly qualified as lethargic:

Second Half: Fall low, Rise Higher

The third quarter was disastrous for the Cavaliers when Boston started heating up. The Celtics made Cleveland’s passive defense pay when they started knocking down more shots, destroying the Cavs in those 12 minutes with 42 points, 17 of which avalanched the Cavs in the final 3 minutes of the quarter. Once the momentum of the game shifted to the home team, the Cavs were sitting ducks watching shot after shot. By the end of this quarter, the Cavs had given an astonishing 101 points.

The fourth quarter is where it got fun. Irving played flawlessly with James, patiently waiting for his opportunities. With James dominating, the Celtics added pressure to lock-down Cleveland’s best player, leaving cracks that Irving exploited with his elusive dribbling while Shawn Marion and Joe Harris had terrific off the ball movement to get timely buckets while LeBron carries his Cavaliers on his back:

The difference in the forth quarter, specifically the final 6 minutes, was the defense. The mythological assumption that this team can’t adjust like a switch was tested tonight, and the Cavs showed promise. The team is simply explosive, and they made all the right corrections in crunch time. They turned up the defensive intensity, showed that they cared and that they were not going to be stopped. This was their exceptional last stand:

And 1

This game was fully of twists and turns for the Cavaliers, but they did learn a lot. They exhaustively learned that defense is required to win. Bottom line. They also might’ve learned a lot about their players. Shawn Marion started for the third time in a row and played well in the closing minutes. Rookie Joe Harris also got a big boost in playing time, hanging with the veterans on the court as the Cavs rallied to victory. This adds versatility to Coach Blatt’s rotation options, as he now has this duo in his back pocket.

While the Cavs were consistent offensively, they simply failed to complete a full defensive effort. Miraculously, the Cavs were able to make this comeback, but these are habits that must be dealt with. We know we have a team that can finish against anyone like they did tonight, but we never really know what Cavs team will start the game: the activist or the pacifist. Later in the season against tougher teams, starting slow might create holes to deep to climb out of. There are more things to improve on than to celebrate about on this team right now, and hopefully we can see some immediate progress against the Atlanta Hawks tomorrow night.

The Land