LeBron James practices Thursday, expected to be ready for Game 3

Tyronn Lue explains Celtics “gooning up the game” comment

Daryl Ruiter
May 17, 2018 - 4:37 pm
Celtics forward Marcus Morris (13) defends Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during the second quarter of game two of the Eastern conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

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Independence, OH (92.3 The Fan) – LeBron James practiced Thursday after suffering a strained neck in the second quarter of Game 2 Tuesday night.

“He said he's okay,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.

James, who was spotted sitting with a few teammates when practice opened to reporters, was a full participant according to Lue and he is expected to be healthy for Game 3 Saturday night.

James, who scored 42 points to go with 10 rebounds and 12 assists Tuesday night, was forced to go to the locker room with under 4 minutes left in the first half following a violent collision with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum before returning a few minutes later.

Tatum hit James in the jaw with his shoulder under the basket as the 2 collided. James made 1 of the 2 free throws following the foul but was clearly dazed as he shot them and then walked to the locker room.

Gooning up the game – Lue explained his comment during his postgame press conference Tuesday night that the Celtics were “gooning up the game” that drew attention nationally on Thursday.

It wasn’t meant to be a cheap shot at the Celtics either.

“Physicality. Nothing bad. I like it,” Lue said. “But physicality, hard fouls, into our body, into our airspace, and they're just playing tough. It's not a bad thing to goon it up. Like taking hard fouls and being physical, they're playing playoff basketball. That's all I meant by it, nothing bad.”

Lue would like to see his own team play the same way.

“We've got to do the same thing, which I know we can. I'm confident that we can,” Lue said. “These three days we really get a chance to do some different things and try to incorporate some things and do things better.”

Not the plan – Lue had more explaining to do Thursday as to why he started the fourth quarter of Game 2 without Kevin Love or James on the floor after they just got outscored 36-22 in the third quarter.

“In the fourth quarter I wanted to start Bron, but he said he needed a rest, so it kind of messed our rotation up a little bit,” Lue said. “I wanted him to play him that first two or three minutes of that fourth quarter, get Kevin back, give him a rest, but he said he needed a rest, so that's what it was.”

Lue was forced to go with Kyle Korver, George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr., which allowed Boston to push their lead to 11 before James re-entered the game with 10:41 remaining.

Lue promises to avoid a repeat Saturday night.

"We'll be better at it next time," Lue said. 

No worries – J.R. Smith wasn’t concerned he would face additional punishment following his flagrant-1 foul on Al Horford late in the fourth quarter of Game 2.

“No, not really,” Smith said when asked if he was concerned the league office would be calling. “Fortunately for me, I've been in that situation a few times, worried about a phone call from them. That's kind of the last thing on my mind at this point.”

Smith shoved Horford in the back mid-air going for an alley-oop, which is a no-no on a multitude of levels when it comes to sportsmanship and basketball, prompting Marcus Smart, who called the play “dirty” after the game, to go after Smith. Both players were assessed technical fouls for that altercation.

Smith has had an awful start to the series. He’s scored just 4 points and is 2 for 16 from the field to go with 4 rebounds and 2 assists.

“JR [has to] take his open shots, I think be aggressive. When he catches it, drive and attack and take his shot,” Lue said. “He's not really getting a lot of rhythm shots. I think they're doing a good job of getting to him. I think in transition they're getting to him. We've just got to find ways just to keep him getting shots and being aggressive.”

Catching a break – Game 3 isn’t until Saturday night giving the Cavs a lot of time to not only rest but figure out how to fix everything that went wrong in Boston.

“It's a good break,” Lue said. “I think it's a good break for us to take advantage of, showing the things on tape that we need to get better at and the things we need to take away. There's just a lot of things like communication-wise. We had like seven, eight, nine breakdowns where we just didn't communicate. We showed that today, just take away those easy baskets, things we can avoid, and those guys saw that, and then incorporate a couple other things.”