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Despite 42 from LeBron, Cletics take 2-0 lead

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BOSTON (AP) — The Celtics punched the Cavaliers first and never looked back in rolling to a Game 1 rout.

LeBron James took a literal shot to the jaw in Game 2 but kept right on scoring.

So did the Celtics.

Jaylen Brown scored 23 points and Boston withstood a 42-point night by James to beat Cleveland 107-94 on Tuesday and take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

Terry Rozier added 18 points, while Al Horford finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Boston improved to 9-0 this postseason at TD Garden. The Celtics have never blown a 2-0 series lead in the playoffs.

“We’re going to fight,” Rozier said. “At this point we don’t care if we win by half a point. If we win, that’s all that matters.”

James added 12 assists and 10 rebounds. He scored 21 of Cleveland’s 27 points in the first quarter , tying his playoff career high for points in a period. His 42 points marked his fifth 40-point game of this postseason. James had just 15 points and missed all five of his 3-point attempts in the Cavs’ Game 1 loss.

But he didn’t seem to play with the same force after straining his neck in a first-half collision and the Cavaliers wilted in the second half, with the Celtics outscoring them 59-39.

“I think I’ll be fine. I’m not going to lose sleep over it. You go out and when you lay everything on the line, at the end of the day, you can live with that,” he said. “They did what they had to do, and that was protect home, and now it’s our time to try to do that, as well.”

Kevin Love finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds for Cleveland.

As expected, Tristan Thompson started in place of Kyle Korver in the hopes his presence could energize what was a sluggish Cavs offense in Game 1. Thompson got Cleveland’s first basket of the night and helped to limit Horford’s effectiveness on the inside early on.

Korver added 11 points off the bench for Cleveland. But starters Thompson, JR Smith and George Hill combined for just 11 points on 5-of-17 shooting.

Tempers flared with 3:49 to play with Boston leading 97-89. Marcus Smart got in Smith’s face after Smith pushed Horford in the back to prevent a layup. Smith shoved Smart and the pair had to be separated.

Smith was assessed a flagrant foul and both received technical fouls.

“I felt like it was uncalled for that type of play there,” Horford said. “We have each other’s backs. … We moved on to the next play way and we locked in after that.”

Smith said there was no malicious intent on the play.

“I blatantly pushed him. It wasn’t like I was trying to low bridge him or something. Just make sure he didn’t get it,” Smith said. “It was a good, hard foul.”

Boston’s balanced attack was effective again, with six players reaching double figures. Cleveland had 15 turnovers leading to 13 Boston points. The Celtics turned it over just six times.

Boston led 84-77 after three quarters and took command late in the fourth with the Cavs getting little offense other than from James. Cleveland’s starters were pulled with 1:48 left and the Cavs down 14.

James was on the attack from the opening tip. He turned the ball over the Cavs’ first possession. But it was one of his only miscues in the first quarter.

James was also astoundingly efficient, using his dribble to create space, while he knocked down an assortment of jump shots.

He finished the opening quarter 8 of 13 from the field and 4 of 7 from the 3-point line.

His momentum was stunted briefly at the 3:50 mark of the second quarter, when Jayson Tatum was whistled for a foul after catching James jaw with his shoulder as he attempted a steal. James stayed in the game and connected on one of his ensuing free throws, but then exited to the locker room with Cleveland leading 47-36.

The Cavaliers said James had a neck sprain. He returned after missing less than two minutes of game time.

Boston flurried just before the half, getting six points from Morris in the final minute to trim Cleveland’s lead to 55-48 at the break.

“I think we just have a group of guys that really believe in each other,” Horford said. “Our group in tough times, we’ve always found a way.”

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Were outscored 50-42 in the paint after being outscored 60-38 in Game 1.

Celtics: Went 10 of 31 from the 3-point line.

QUOTABLE

“We’ve got to be tougher. I think they’re playing tougher than we are. We see that. They’re being physical. They’re gooning the game up and we’ve got to do the same thing.” — Cavaliers coach Ty Lue

40-POINT MAN

According to Elias Sports Bureau, James now has three career playoff 40-point triple-doubles. That is the most in NBA postseason history.

DEFENDING A TEAMMATE

Smart said Smith’s play was a “dirty shot.”

“That’s not the first time JR has done some dirty stuff, especially playing against us,” he said. “It’s like a bully, you keep letting a bully keep picking on you, he’s going to pick on you until you finally stand up. And that’s what I tried to do.”

UP NEXT

Game 3 is Saturday in Cleveland.

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No Alphonso Davies, no party for Whitecaps in loss to Sounders

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The Vancouver Whitecaps suffered their fourth straight loss away from home, falling 2-0 to the Seattle Sounders in their Cascadia Cup clash at CenturyLink Field on Saturday afternoon.

The dynamic Alphonso Davies was given the “club’s permission” to miss Saturday’s game, and it was apparent that he was sorely missed as the Whitecaps were dour without him.

Here are three takeaways from the match.

No Davies, no party

Alphonso Davies (three goals, eight assists) has been involved in 11 of the Whitecaps’ 30 goals in MLS this season. Only Kei Kamara (eight goals, three assists) has been as integral to Vancouver’s attacking output.

It’s natural for an attack to decline when a key player is unavailable, but it should never be this drastic, especially with Kamara, Yordy Reyna and Cristian Techera starting. All three have been strong contributors.

Not for the first time, Brian Schmetzer and the Seattle Sounders coaching staff knew immediately how to shut down the Whitecaps attack. With Kamara up front, there is always a steady stream of crosses into the box. No player has won more aerial duels per game in MLS this season than Kamara, per WhoScored.com, but unfortunately for him, Chad Marshall and Kim Kee-hee are pretty dominant in the air themselves.

Kamara finished the game without a single duel won in the air.

The Whitecaps didn’t stray from that strategy, either. Almost all of their passes into the box were rather direct.

Coach Carl Robinson would benefit by giving his forwards more creative freedom. It adds more unpredictability and provides far more options when attacking. Perhaps the inclusion of Anthony Blondell, who is far more involved in the build-up than Kamara, would help, too.

However, this isn’t the first time the attack was completely nullified and it likely won’t be the last.

Whitecaps midfield struggles. Again.

Another major issue for the Whitecaps in this game, and throughout the season, has been the midfield.

Up until Nicolas Mezquida entered the match on 59 minutes, no player was making runs between the Sounders’ lines. It’s significantly easier for an opposing defence to keep an attack at bay when there are no runners penetrating those deep blocks.

The midfield trio of Efrain Juarez, Felipe and Jordon Mutch barely cut into the final third. One of them have to follow their passes, run into the pockets of space, receive the ball, and then the opposition’s shape becomes disjointed. That was sorely lacking for Vancouver.

Pass map for Juarez (6), Felipe (8) and Mutch (77).

Considering the Whitecaps had a numerical advantage in the midfield – the Sounders started Cristian Roldan and Gustav Svensson in the middle – it’s inexcusable for such little circulation in the central channels.

The buildup from midfield was also incredibly slow, which helped the Sounders, who were exposed in the middle, as seen below.

Average positioning for the Whitecaps (left) and the Sounders (right), via SofaScore.

Defensively, the Whitecaps midfield was a mess as well. The second goal was aided by Stefan Marinovic’s gaff, but no one closed down Nicolas Lodeiro, who had tons of space and time to place his shot.

In total, the three Whitecaps midfielders won a combined eight duels. Roldan and Svensson had 10 as a duo. Osvaldo Alonso, who was substituted into the match right before halftime, recovered possession four times.

The Whitecaps clearly lost the midfield battle and it showed.

Indiscipline rears its ugly head for Vancouver

If losing 2-0 to their Cascadia rivals wasn’t enough, Efrain Juarez wrapped a bow on the proceedings with an unnecessary red card.

After a needless challenge on Lodeiro, Juarez profusely protested the booking. After bumping referee Chris Penso and shouting in his face, the Mexican international received another yellow and a sending off.

That was the Whitecaps’ seventh red card of the season, the highest total in MLS. It’s also the 30th sending off in all competitions for the team under Robinson.

After Brek Shea was sent off for dissent against Toronto FC on March 18, 2017, head coach Carl Robinson said he “100 per cent” doesn’t condone indiscipline.

Seventeen months later, players are still receiving unnecessary red cards.

Whatever the issue may be with this, it needs to be eradicated, or else the Whitecaps will keep shooting themselves in the foot.

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Ryan Straschnitzki returns to the ice for 1st time since Humboldt Broncos bus crash

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Ryan Straschnitzki was back on the ice Friday, for the first time since the tragic bus crash that changed his life.

Straschnitzki and his father Tom both played sledge hockey for the first time Friday in Okotoks, Alta., where they were given a tutorial by Team Canada's Chris Cederstrand.

For Ryan — who wore his Humboldt Broncos gear — the day was both emotional and a little frustrating, too, said Tom in an interview with CBC.

"It was huge for him just to get on the ice.," he said.

"Last time he was on the ice was the day before the accident, so this was his first time [since] on there. And as soon as those blades touched the ice, I've never seen a smile that big. It was massive.

"And then he just took off."

Humboldt Broncos survivor Ryan Straschnitzki does muscles strengthening exercises during a physiotherapy session at the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia on June 25. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Ryan was left a paraplegic in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in April that left 16 people dead and 10 others injured.

A whole different geometry

While returning to the rink was a joyous turning point for Straschnitzki, it was also a moment of discovery in many ways, as he learned that sledge hockey has its own unique geometry, and even a few secret tricks.

"He was trying to figure out how to turn," said Tom.

"So we're saying, drop a shoulder — then he gets the hang of it."

Shooting from a sled is different too.

"You have to have the stick flat now to get the shot off — like the whole stick," Tom said.

"Where in hockey, you're standing, and you kind of angle it — so it's a whole new different way shooting — so it's just [like] re-learning hockey."

Ryan can be a perfectionist, too, Tom said.

"If he can't do anything, he will practice and practice and practice until he can get it done," he said.

"He already texted me this morning and wanted me to bring the sled into the parking lot of the hotel, so he could practice shooting."

"I said yeah — let's take a day off pal. He was pumped."

Insider tips

Straschnitzki also got a few insider tips from Cederstrand, who arranged ice time at the Okotoks rink.

They were joined by former Flames draft pick, Corban Knight, who's now with the Philadelphia Flyers.

"Chris was showing us little tricks they did in the Olympics," Tom said.

"Once you're ahead of a guy, it's hard for them to catch up. And to get ahead of him, you do the little tricks, like move the nose of the sled because you turn the opposite way, because there's no blade at the end. The blade is under your butt.

"If you lean back too far, well your feet are going straight up in the air."

A summer of physiotherapy

Straschnitzki is home doing physiotherapy for the summer, and hopefully picking up the nuances of sledge hockey ahead of the Cowboys and Sleds tournament and fundraiser set for Sept. 15 in Okotoks.

It's a joint fundraiser for Straschnitzki and first responders, and there will be chuckwagon drivers, NHL players, Team Canada sledge players, in addition to Tom — who says he's terrible at sledge — and Ryan.

Tom Straschnitzki and Ryan try out sledge hockey in Oktoks (Tom Straschnitzki)

Living in hotel during renovations

In the meantime, the family is living in a hotel while their home gets renovated to make it accessible for Ryan.

It might have been the first time back on the rink, but it didn't take long for him to settle in.

"We couldn't get him off the ice," Tom said. "But eventually the rink rats had to come in and go, 'OK guys, the ice is rented for someone else.'"


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Stroman stellar over seven as Jays win

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TORONTO — Marcus Stroman was feeling so great on the mound Saturday that not even a slight jab from Baltimore’s Adam Jones could bring him down.

When the Blue Jays pitcher missed badly on a breaking ball to Jones in his at-bat in the sixth inning, the Orioles star responded by mimicking Stroman’s signature shimmy.

Stroman didn’t seem fazed. And he got the last laugh anyway.

The right-hander pitched seven solid innings and Toronto scored three unearned runs to beat Baltimore 4-1 in the second game of a series between the AL East’s worst teams.

“Me and Jonesy were kinda talking to each other during the ABs and during the game,” Stroman said. “I love Jonesy, he’s been someone who’s reached out to me when I got into the league and he’s been a mentor of mine. … He’s someone who’s always been there for me and he makes the game very fun.”

Stroman (3-7) allowed one run while scattering five hits over a season-high 107-pitch performance. Three of those hits came in the first inning and included an RBI single from Jones that gave Baltimore (28-71) its only run.

The damage was minimized when Toronto left-fielder Teoscar Hernandez threw a laser into the infield to tag out Jonathan Schoop at second base for the first out.

“I didn’t come out very strong today, just kinda leaving pitches up in the zone. Whenever you can get a big play like that from your defence it’s definitely a momentum shifter,” Stroman said. “It kinda told me I need to kick it in gear and start making better pitches.”

Stroman struck out seven, hit a batter and issued two walks, continuing a strong stretch since a stint on the disabled list caused him to miss six weeks of the season.

He has a 3.03 earned-run average over his last six starts, compared to a 7.71 mark in seven starts before hitting the DL.

“Since he’s come back from the DL he’s been really good,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “I just think he’s pitching like he’s always pitched. I thought he did a good job today working ahead in the count.”

Second baseman Devon Travis said Stroman’s “got his fire back.”

“Stro’s got the ability to ignite an entire team,” he said. “Obviously he’s a very animated guy. He brings a lot of energy, very competitive. You can feel that, you can feel that behind him. It give you a little extra edge. I’m just happy to see Stro getting back to his old self.”

Randal Grichuk and Luke Maile drove in runs for the Blue Jays (45-52) and Hernandez scored on a balk.

Ryan Tepera pitched the ninth for the save, getting some help from Grichuk on a nice defensive catch in deep centre field on the first out.

Jones, who also doubled in the fourth inning, was 2 for 4 at the plate just hours after he and some teammates were stuck in an elevator at their hotel. The incident, which Jones shared on his Instagram account over a series of videos, happened after Friday night’s Blue Jays win in extra innings and lasted about 30 minutes. They were rescued by Toronto firefighters.

Alex Cobb (2-13) allowed four runs — only one of them earned — and four hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked three batters.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Cobb developed a blister during his start.

Toronto scored three unearned runs to take the lead in the fourth inning, after an error on Tim Beckham, his fourth in six games.

Toronto and Baltimore are fourth and fifth respectively in the AL East this year, a stark contrast from two seasons ago when the Blue Jays edged the Orioles in a thrilling wild-card game at Rogers Centre en route to Toronto’s second straight ALCS appearance.

With a playoff spot fading fast, Stroman said Toronto’s goal for the rest of the season is to “show up every day and compete.”

“I think that’s something that us as Blue Jays have been able to do over the past few years regardless of what the expectations are,” he said. “I love my team, I wouldn’t want any other guys. It’s just a matter of going out there and knowing what we’re capable of.”

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