BOSTON – Terry Rozier’s dunk during the third quarter of Tuesday night’s Game 2 embodied the mindset of the Boston Celtics: They just don’t care.
They don’t care who you are. They don’t care what you’ve done. They don’t care what you’re doing.
They are fearless.
Rozier caught an outlet pass from Jaylen Brown late in the third quarter and had nothing but parquet between him and the basket at the other end of the court. However, chasing him down from behind was none other than LeBron James.
James, who was in the midst of quite possibly his most impressive performance of an otherworldly playoff run, is the most feared player in the history of the game when it comes to chase-down blocks. His chase-down block against Andre Iguodala during Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals is arguably the seminal moment of his distinguished career.
James typically strikes fear into every player who has the ball in their hands under those circumstances. At the very least, he will affect the ensuing shot, either from a physical or a mental standpoint.
But Scary Terry has no fear.
Rather than allow James to frighten him, Rozier pulled ahead of James, planted his left foot at the bottom of the key, cocked the ball back with his right hand and threw down a terrorizing tomahawk slam that shook James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at their core.
The play triggered tremors inside the Garden, while causing the Cavs to stagger back to their bench.
“Terry is fearless,” teammate Al Horford said after the game. “He’s always been like that.”
Truthfully, the Celtics as a whole have been like that since the very start of this season – and it all started against this very opponent.
Boston lost All-Star forward Gordon Hayward to a gruesome injury on Opening Night in Cleveland. The Celtics fell behind by as many as 18 points during that game, but they showed no fear as they battled back before narrowly falling by three points.
That night set the tone for the rest of the season, and it has carried on until this day. No obstacle has been too great for Boston to overcome. No scenario has struck fear into their bones.
“I think that we just have a group of guys that really believe in each other,” Horford said, after Celtics.com asked him about the team’s lack of fear. He added, “(We) just have a lot of guys that have a lot of fight in them in the locker room.”
That trait has never been more clear than it was Tuesday night.
Rozier’s dunk was just one of many examples of Boston’s fearlessness.
LeBron James scored 21 points during the first quarter of Game 2, seemingly turning into a superhuman athlete that would not allow its team to lose. But when the quarter came to a close, there were the Celtics, just four points behind. And when the final buzzer sounded, it was the Cavs who trailed.
Marcus Smart, meanwhile, made every conceivable hustle play while he was on the court. He threw his body in every which direction, making play after play while simultaneously sucking the life out of the overwhelmed Cavaliers.
Smart also took exception to J.R. Smith’s blatantly dirty foul against a defenseless Horford during the final minutes of a runaway win. Smart darted 20 feet over to Smith following the play to voice his displeasure and to let Smith know that the Celtics don’t – and won’t – accept dirty play, even from the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs.
The list goes on and on.Jaylen Brown said it best after the win, as he spoke to Doris Burke live on ESPN: "Our mindset is we don't back down from anybody."
The Cavaliers may have the greatest player of this generation. They may have a recent title under their belts. They may have one of the most accurate 3-point shooters of all time. They may have just swept the No. 1 seed in the East out of the Playoffs.
But you know what? Boston does not care.
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