Celtics vs. Cavaliers highlights, takeaways: Cavaliers rout Celtics in Boston to even series at 1-1

The second round of the 2024 NBA playoffs continued on Thursday night, as the Cleveland Cavaliers rolled past the Boston Celtics 118-94 to even up their best-of-seven series 1-1. Donovan Mitchell finished with a team-high 29 points. He had 16 points in the third quarter alone and hit three straight baskets to start the fourth, including the 28-footer off the glass.

Jayson Tatum scored 25 for Boston, and Jaylen Brown added 19 points. But Derrick White, whose 25 points in Game 1 helped the Celtics coast to a 120-95 win, managed just 10 points, missing seven of his eight 3-point tries.

The series shifts to Cleveland for Game 3 (Saturday) and Game 4 (Monday). The Celtics won two of their three games against the Cavaliers during the regular season, but Cleveland won the only game it played at home.

Here are some key takeaways from the game:

Cavaliers win the 3-point battle

The Celtics' 3-point shooting is their biggest offensive weapon, and they led the league in makes (16.5) and attempts (42.5) per game during the regular season, and were second in percentage (38.8). But after making 18 3s in their Game 1 win, the Celtics could not buy a basket on Thursday night. In fact, they went 8-of-35 to record their second-worst shooting game of the entire season.

On the other side, the Cavaliers had their best 3-point shooting game of the playoffs. They were particularly hot in the third quarter, when they went 7-of-10, and finished the game 13-of-28 despite a number of bad misses in garbage time. Donovan Mitchell led the way with five triples, while Darius Garland added four, as they outscored the Celtics by 15 from behind the arc. 

This game was similar to Game 2 between the Celtics and Miami Heat in the first round, when the Heat made a franchise-record 23 3s. While the Cavaliers didn't match that volume, their shotmaking was tremendous. All seven of their 3s in the third quarter were off the dribble, and Mitchell even banked one in to start the fourth. Furthermore, it came in a game where the Celtics were ice cold. 

Mobley steps up

With Jarrett Allen still out due to a rib injury, the Cavaliers needed young big man Evan Mobley to step up on both sides of the ball. He did just that with the best playoff game of his career: 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks on 9-of-15 shooting. 

It was no surprise that Mitchell started his post-game interview on the court by giving Mobley a shoutout. He was excellent all night long and helped set the tone for the Cavaliers by being aggressive looking for his own shot, protecting the rim and controlling the glass. 

These are the type of performances that the Cavaliers need more often from Mobley. He has immense talent, but there are too many games where he is a non-factor on the offensive end. When he's playing like he did in Game 2, the Cavaliers are a much more dangerous team. 

Celtics need Tatum to shoot better

Jayson Tatum is a great player and impacts the game in so many ways. He's leading the Celtics in rebounding, assists and blocks during the playoffs, and the attention he draws from opponents makes life much easier for all of his teammates. 

That being said, he's averaging 21.7 points on 40.7/26.8/81.7 shooting splits, and has shot 50% in just one game during the postseason. This is his lowest scoring average in the playoffs since 2019, and the least efficient postseason of his career so far. 

His approach on offense has been terrific, and the answer isn't for him to start forcing shots. He does, however, have to start making more of the ones he's taking. The Celtics will probably still win this series, but it would be a lot easier for them to do so if their best player wasn't shooting 40% from the field. 

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Final: Cavaliers 118 -- Celtics 94

After losing by 25 points in Game 1, the Cavaliers responded with a 24-point win of their own to even the series at 1-1. They were better than the Celtics in every category in this one, as they shot 54.7% from the field, knocked down 13 3-pointers and won the rebounding battle by 13. 

Donovan Mitchell led the way with 29 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, while Evan Mobley and Caris LeVert added 21 points apiece. As a team, the Cavaliers shot 13-of-28 from downtown, and that was with a few misses in garbage time. 

The Celtics shot 8-of-35 (22.9%) from behind the arc, which was their second-worst shooting performance of the entire season. Jayson Tatum went for 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while Payton Pritchard chipped in 13 points off the bench, but the Celtics just never really had it in this one. 

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Cavaliers running away

This one is over. The Cavaliers continue to score with ease against a Celtics team that has not been locked in defensively, and the Celtics are missing everything on the other end. No one saw this result coming, but the Cavaliers are going to head back to Cleveland with the series tied 1-1. 

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Third quarter: Cavaliers 90 -- Celtics 78

The Cavaliers caught fire in the third quarter and went 7-of-10 from 3-point land, including an incredible buzzer beater by Donovan Mitchell, to take a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter. For the game, the Cavs are now shooting 50% from behind the arc and have outscored the Celtics by 12 points, which is the exact difference in the game. Unless the Celtics suddenly start hitting shots, this one could be over

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Celtics' offense still missing

The Celtics got off to a terrific start in this game, but it's been a major struggle for them to score ever since. Part of that is better defense from the Cavaliers, and part of that is just missing shots they usually make. Their 3-point attack is not working (6-of-22) and they have not been able to make up for it in the paint, where they are now 15-of-28. 

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Halftime: Celtics 54 -- Cavaliers 54

For the second quarter on a row, the Cavaliers ended the frame on an 11-3 run, and as a result we go into the break all squared up. 

The Cavaliers' offense has had much more success in this game, thanks in large part to their insistence on getting to the rim. They are 15-of-20 in the restricted area and 7-of-22 everywhere else. Evan Mobley has 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists to lead the way, while Caris LeVert has chipped in 12 points off the bench. 

Save for a few stretches at various points, the Celtics have had a tough time scoring in this game. They're just 6-of-17 from 3-point land and 12-of-22 in the paint. Jayson Tatum has 16 points, six rebounds and four assists to lead their attack. 

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Tatum heating up

Jayson Tatum has done a little bit of everything for the Celtics in the postseason, but he hasn't shot the ball super well. He's at 40.6% from the field for the playoffs and was 7-of-19 in Game 1. He's heating up in the second quarter of this one, though, and is up to 14 points. 

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First quarter: Cavaliers 30 -- Celtics 24

Incredible turnaround late in the first, as the Cavaliers turned an early nine-point deficit into a six-point lead at the quarter break. Evan Mobley has led the way with 11 points, three rebounds and four assists and the Cavaliers have gotten inside for a number of finishes in the paint. The Celtics, meanwhile, went ice cold and missed seven consecutive shots at one point. For the quarter, Boston is shooting 8-of-22, including just 3-of-10 in the paint. 

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Celtics picking up right where they left off

The Celtics cruised to a 25-point win in Game 1, and are off to a great start in Game 2. They've made four of their first six shots and have jumped out to a quick nine-point lead to force an early timeout from JB Bickerstaff. Much has been made about Cleveland's struggling offense, but their defense has been just as problematic in the early part of this series. Everything is just far too easy for the Celtics, who are creating great looks at will. 

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Cavaliers are ready

Cleveland may have dropped the series opener at TD Garden but it is focused on getting a split in Boston before heading home. Game 2 tips off in 45 minutes.

May 9, 2024, 10:15 PM
May. 09, 2024, 6:15 pm EDT
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Tatum mic'd up: 'I got Mitchell'

Before Game 2 tips, look back on Celtics' Jayson Tatum, who was mic'd up for Boston's win in the series opener and defended Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell. Tonight's game starts at 7 p.m. ET. Get your popcorn ready 🍿

May 9, 2024, 9:46 PM
May. 09, 2024, 5:46 pm EDT