Charles Krupa/Associated Press
BOSTON — LeBron James tore the ice pack off his left knee and tossed it left-handed toward the garbage can sitting 10 feet away in the visiting locker room at TD Garden.
He peeled the cellophane from his right knee, removed the ice pack and took aim for the bottom of the same trash can. Two-for-two.
Next was the ice pack that encased his lower back. This time, he tossed it straight to a locker room attendant wearing a Boston Celtics T-shirt and dreadlocks. A pinpoint pass, to be sure.
Even in the aftermath of a bitter postseason defeat—and staring at the most treacherous path to the NBA Finals he’s faced in a decade—James was making all the plays late Tuesday night.
And it still wasn’t enough.
“We’re going to use these days to really dive in on what needs to be done to help our ballclub be successful,” James said after his brilliant 42-point triple-double couldn’t rescue the Cleveland Cavaliers, who fell into an 0-2 hole in the Eastern Conference Finals with a 107-94 loss to the Celtics.
“We have a few days,” James said, “and we’re going to see what we’re made of on Saturday.”
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James didn’t repeat his line from Game 1 (15 points, nine assists, seven rebounds) on Tuesday night and didn’t say he had “zero level of concern at this stage” like he did on Sunday. Perhaps that’s because this is a stage he hasn’t stood on in years. It’s the first time James has faced an 0-2 deficit in an Eastern Conference playoff series since the second round against Boston in 2008.
It was the 15th time he’d faced the possibility of going down 0-2 in a postseason series. He’s now 8-7 in those Game 2s. In the prior series in which he’s trailed 0-2, James is 2-4.
That’s a lot of history, a lot of mileage. And as he’s done so many times, James came out of his corner like Mike Tyson used to and started landing haymakers and gut-wrenching body blows to a Celtics team that had been bracing for exactly that—and withstood it.
“You know, you’ve got to tip your hat to LeBron,” Celtics agitator Marcus Smart said. “He’s been doing this for a long time, and if he’s not the greatest to do it, he’s one