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Cavaliers obliterate Celtics by 44 points in Game 2

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 4 days ago Jeff Zillgitt

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BOSTON – The beating the Cleveland Cavaliers put on the Boston Celtics came with physical, emotional and mental pain.

Cleveland 130, Boston 86 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday, and it wasn’t even as close as the score indicated.

That loss will stick with Celtics long after this series, a harsh reminder of what the Cavs have and what the Celtics don’t, and while it starts with LeBron James, the NBA’s best player, it extends to a roster of stars and talented, diverse role players.

James, who sat out the fourth quarter of the blowout, finished with 30 points, seven assists, four rebounds, four steals and three blocks as he continued what might be the best postseason of his career. In 33 minutes on the court, James, and whoever was on the court with him, outscored Boston by 45 points.

It was James’ eighth consecutive playoff game with at least 30 points.

Kyrie Irving had 23 points, and Kevin Love followed up his 32-point, 12-rebound performance with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 3 is Sunday in Cleveland (8:30 p.m. ET), and it will be a surprise if this series returns to Boston for a fifth game. Cleveland and Golden State – if they win their series – could enter the NBA Finals with 12-0 playoff records.

The Celtics, who played the second half without All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas (right hip strain), had a decent start, trailing 11-10. Then if such an onslaught can be considered a run, the Cavs finished the half on a 61-21 pounding.

Cleveland led by 40 with 2:59 left in the second quarter and took a 72-31 lead into halftime. Unlike the letdown for the Cavs in the third quarter of Game 1, they continued the assault in Game 2.

It got so bad in the first half that Celtics radio analyst Cedric Maxwell used his pocket square as a surrender flag and waved it in the face of Cavs radio analyst Jim Chones.

James left the game with 1:47 left in the third quarter and Cleveland leading 99-53, and the lead grew to 112-62 – a 51-point margin – on Channing Frye’s long two-pointer with 9:13 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Boston has no answers strategically or player-wise to stop the Cavs, who have indeed flipped the switch at the necessary time.

Before the second game of the series, Celtics coach Brad Stevens knew well the predicament he and his team faced.

"You have to realize that they're outstanding,” Stevens said. “They put you in a bad matchup almost every time down the floor, and they're great at it. LeBron is great at finding the matchup he wants. He's great at recognizing when Love has the matchup that they want. He's great at recognizing when Irving has a matchup or bringing a screener up that they want to bring up.

“That's what makes it really difficult. You're always accounting for all those shooters on the floor, and yet there is a real ability of that team to pick you apart in isolation.”

The Cavs did just that on Friday. They shot 56.5% from the field and the best three-point shooting team continued their long-range proficiency, making 19-of-39 three-point attempts. James and Love each made four, and Irving had three.

Cleveland outscored Boston 16-0 on fastbreak points and 26-12 in points in the paint in the first half.

The Cavs became the sixth team in NBA history to start the playoffs 10-0, joining the 1989 and 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, 2012 San Antonio Spurs, 2016 Cavaliers and 2017 Golden State Warriors.

It was also Cleveland’s eighth consecutive playoff road victory dating to last season’s NBA Finals.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt

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