Cavaliers, Suns even their series; Celtics take 2-0 lead on Hawks

CLEVELAND — Coach J.B. Bickerstaff sent a clear message to the Cavaliers ahead of Tuesday night’s blowout win over the New York Knicks in Game 2.

For the Cavs to bounce back from their Game 1 defeat, they needed to ramp up their aggression, toughness and rebounding.

“If we are not more physical, if we do not hit first, we’re not going to give ourselves a fair chance,” Bickerstaff said shortly before tipoff. “If we allow them to continue to take it to us, we’re not going to give ourselves a chance. So that’s the adjustment that we’ve got to make.”

Well, the Cavs emphatically accomplished the mission and prevailed 107-90 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, tying the best-of-seven series 1-1 as it moves to Madison Square Garden for Game 3 at 8:30 p.m. ET Friday. 

Point guard Darius Garland became the face of Cleveland’s much more forceful approach and scored a game-high 32 points. Garland shot 8 of 17 from the field, including 6 of 10 on 3-pointers.

Garland’s 26 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field through two quarters helped the Cavs seize a 59-39 halftime lead, and Cleveland maintained control the rest of the way. To put Garland’s first half in context, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are the only players in franchise history with as many points in a half of a playoff game.

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (10) drives against New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) during the first half of Game 2.

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Sixth man Caris LeVert also turned his performance around after Game 1, finishing with 24 points and helping the Cavs establish a 36-28 edge in bench points.

All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell added 17 points and a game-high 13 assists for the Cavs. Forward Evan Mobley contributed 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds to Cleveland’s dominant outing.

As a team, the Cavs grabbed 43 rebounds compared with 36 for the Knicks, who were led in scoring by All-Star power forward Julius Randle (22 points) and guard Jalen Brunson (20 points).

The Cavs had been outrebounded by the Knicks in every previous meeting this season — four in the regular season and one in the playoffs. The Knicks gained a 51-38 rebounding advantage, including 17-11 on the offensive end of the floor, Saturday en route to their 101-97 victory in Game 1.

This time around, the Cavs showed more fight and earned much-needed redemption.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at [email protected]. On Twitter: @ByNateUlrich.

BOSTON (AP) – Jayson Tatum had 29 points and an emphatic dunk to end a clinching late run and the Boston Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks 119-106 on Tuesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.

Derrick White added 26 points and seven rebounds, and Jaylen Brown scored 18 points. Boston outscored Atlanta 64-40 in the paint.

Dejounte Murray led the Hawks with 29 points, and Trae Young had 24.

Game 3 is Friday night in Atlanta.

Down by 20, the Hawks cut it to single digits late in the third quarter.

With Atlanta trailing 74-57, Young went to the bench and sat out the final 7:07 of the period, briefly visiting the locker room.

His teammates picked it up without him, outscoring the Celtics 24-16 to pull within nine – at 90-81 – entering the fourth.

Young returned to begin the final period and scored four straight points with just over five minutes to play to make it 104-95.

But the Celtics responded with a 15-2 run – bookended by a 3-pointer and dunk by Tatum – to get it back up to 119-97 with 2:16 left.

PHOENIX (AP) – Devin Booker scored 38 points, Kevin Durant had 25 and the Phoenix Suns beat the Los Angeles Clippers 123-109 on Tuesday night in Game 2 to tie the Western Conference first-round series.

The Suns put together a gritty effort after a disappointing loss in Game 1. Their shots weren’t falling for much of the first half and they fell into a 12-point hole midway through the second quarter.

But led by Booker, they never panicked. 

The three-time All-Star drilled a 3 just before the halftime buzzer to tie it and scored 18 points in the third quarter on 7-of-8 shooting, helping the Suns push to a 92-87 advantage entering the fourth.

Phoenix never trailed in the final quarter, slowly pulling away.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: NBA playoffs: Cavs, Suns tie series 1-1; Celtics up 2-0 on Hawks