Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum collided heads with Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love early in the first quarter of Game 6 on Friday - a scary moment that sent Love to the locker room and into the NBA's concussion protocol and left Tatum momentarily shaken up.
The Boston Celtics, thwarted in their first attempt to close out the Cleveland Cavaliers in Friday's Game 6, head back to Boston confident in their chances in a winner-take-all Game 7 but are expecting a battle at TD Garden.
"If I had to pick one guy and choose one guy to prevail, it would be LeBron", Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.
Love's had two concussions since 2016, and if he's been diagnosed with one now, it's hard to imagine he'd be able to pass the tests necessary to be allowed to play by Sunday night.
On this night, it was Tatum and the fresh-legged Celtics who seemed to have the extra gear that James and the Cavaliers did not. When a reporter asked him about his 45-point, 15-rebound performance against the Celtics in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, he said he hadn't thought about it recently and doesn't draw anything from it. "I have a passion for the game", James said. "I've said this a thousand times, but I'm glad he's on my team". Game 7 is just another test, and they're excited for the opportunity at hand.
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George Hill scored 20 points, Jeff Green provided 14, and Larry Nance Jr. scored 10 to go along with seven rebounds and two steals. The Celtics kept in competitive but this was one of those nights where LeBron was not going to be denied, chasing down blocks, knocking down contested 3s from a half-dozen steps behind the 3-point line.
"I don't want to talk so much about [whether it's his last game in Cleveland], but I think just his performance was wonderful", Kyle Korver said. "Best player in the game". 25 first-half points for LeBron. And they can thank some of their youngest players for helping them get this far. However, for any fan of basketball, there is nothing but respect for last night's effort, which puts James in the vaulted company of Wilt Chamberlain now. You got to be able to get down and get dirty. Now, both teams must make massive adjustments heading into Game 7 due to Love's impending absence.
The coach talked about finishing better at the rim, not trying to "hit home runs" with plays that lead to the Cavaliers going the other way with pace and maintaining focus on the defensive end.
The 33-year-old's next challenge: finding a way to beat the Celtics, who have played at another level on their home floor.