Tuesday, August 14th, 2018 pm31 5:49pm

Up 2-0, the Celtics are the better team, but don't count LeBron James, Cavs out just yet

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SportsPulse: LeBron James finished Game 2 with a 40-plus-point triple-double but it wasn’t enough as the Celtics remained undefeated in Boston in the playoffs. USA TODAY Sports

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BOSTON – It requires a resilient team to take LeBron James’ best shot – 21 points in the first quarter and a 40-point triple-double by game’s end – and come out victorious.

It doesn’t happen often.

James had 42 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, and the Boston Celtics still won, defeating Cleveland 107-94 on Tuesday and taking a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Celtics have just right mix to withstand a scoring barrage from James. They are a younger, more athletic team playing physical and without fear. They work hard and rarely get flustered despite using players with minimal playoff experience.

“We don’t back down from anybody,” second-year guard Jaylen Brown told ESPN’s Doris Burke on the court following the game.

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In the here and now, Boston is taking it to Cleveland. They are the better team through two games without question. Everything seems so difficult for Cleveland; the game looks easier for Boston.

“Just got a tough, resilient group of guys, and we’re going to have to be even tougher and more resilient as we head to Cleveland,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

Boston has taken a page out of Indiana’s playbook, making James work hard for his points and making it difficult for his teammates to contribute in ways that lead to a victory. Difference is, Boston is a better version of Indiana, which forced Cleveland to seven games in the first round.

The forecast looks good for Boston, which had built-in excuses – namely season-ending injuries to Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving – had it lost in the first round to Milwaukee or conference semifinals to Philadelphia. Now, the Celtics are two wins from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.

The percentages are in their favor, too. When the home team wins the first two games of a best-of-seven series, it goes on to win the series 95% of the time. Of course, Cleveland was down 2-0 and 3-1 to Golden State in 2016 and came back to win the championship.

That’s why this series isn’t over despite what has transpired. Boston defended home court. Let’s see if the Cavs can do the same in the next two games in Cleveland. They need to play better defense and find ways to get J.R. Smith, George Hill and Jeff Green going offensively. Overall, the effort must improve.

Teams play better at home as do role players, and Boston has lost four times on the road in the playoffs, including three times in the first round of a seven-game series against Milwaukee. While it may not look like it right now, this series can easily be 2-2 a week from now.

“I’m going to go home (Tuesday night) and see my three kids, see my family, recalibrate, see my mom. I think I’ll be fine,” said James who is down 2-0 in an East series for the first time since 2008. “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. I’ll recalibrate as far as how I can help this team continue to be successful (and) I can do some things to make us be even more complete.”

Of all the times the Cavs looked vulnerable and unlikely to get back to the Finals, this ranks right up there.

But if there’s a guy you don’t bet against in the East, it’s James.

“We’re going to see,” James said, “what we’re made of on Saturday.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter.

Celebrities at NBA playoff games

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Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz takes a selfie

Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz takes a selfie before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.  Bob DeChiara, USA TODAY Sports
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott throws a T-shirt to the crowd

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott throws a T-shirt to the crowd during the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.  Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports
Former Houston Rockets star Hakeem Olajuwon (middle)

Former Houston Rockets star Hakeem Olajuwon (middle) looks on during the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.  Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports
Former New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe

Former New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe was on hand for Game 5 between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.  Greg M. Cooper, USA TODAY Sports
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and wife Lauren were

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and wife Lauren were at Game 5 of the Boston Celtics’ series vs. the Philadelphia 76ers.  Greg M. Cooper, USA TODAY Sports
Meek Mill and Questlove look on before Game 3 of the

Meek Mill and Questlove look on before Game 3 of the series between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics.  Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and his

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and his wife Tori Moore Foles look on during Game 3 of the series between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics.  Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Hart reacts during Game 2 of the series between

Kevin Hart reacts during Game 2 of the series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics.  Bob DeChiara, USA TODAY Sports
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) talks

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) talks to former San Francisco Giants star Barry Bonds after Game 2 of the series against the New Orleans Pelicans.  Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports
Beyonce and Jay-Z leave the court at the end of Game

Beyonce and Jay-Z leave the court at the end of Game 1 of the series between the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans.  Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports
Drake during Game 1 of the series between the Toronto

Drake during Game 1 of the series between the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers.  John E. Sokolowski, USA TODAY Sports
Former President Bill Clinton takes a selfie with a

Former President Bill Clinton takes a selfie with a Milwaukee Bucks fan prior to Game 6 of the team’s series against the Boston Celtics.  Jeff Hanisch, USA TODAY Sports
Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander and Kate Upton

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander and Kate Upton take in Game 5 of the series between the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves.  Thomas Shea, USA TODAY Sports
Former Browns star and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim

Former Browns star and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown takes in Game 5 of the series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers.  David Richard, USA TODAY Sports
Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg cheer during Game

Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg cheer during Game 5 of the series between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.  Winslow Townson, USA TODAY Sports
Meek Mill and Kevin Hart pose for a photo during Game

Meek Mill and Kevin Hart pose for a photo during Game 5 of the series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat.  Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports
Boxer Bernard Hopkins gives a thumbs-up during Game

Boxer Bernard Hopkins gives a thumbs-up during Game 5 of the series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat.  Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Philadelphia Eagles

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie talk during Game 5 of the series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat.  Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports
Meek Mill, who was released from prison earlier in

Meek Mill, who was released from prison earlier in the day, rings the bell before Game 5 of the series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat.  Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports
Mitt Romney cheers during Game 4 of the series between

Mitt Romney cheers during Game 4 of the series between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder.  GEORGE FREY, EPA-EFE
Minnesota Viking tight end Kyle Rudolph watches during

Minnesota Viking tight end Kyle Rudolph watches during Game 4 of the series between the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves.  Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports
Danica Patrick and Aaron Rodgers take in Game 3 of

Danica Patrick and Aaron Rodgers take in Game 3 of the Milwaukee Bucks-Boston Celtics series.  Jeff Hanisch, USA TODAY Sports
Allen Iverson and actor Kevin Hart joke around during

Allen Iverson and actor Kevin Hart joke around during Game 2 of the Philadelphia 76ers’ series against the Miami Heat.  Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports
Ben Simmons (right) talks with girlfriend and recording

Ben Simmons (right) talks with girlfriend and recording artist Tinashe before Game 2 of the series against the Miami Heat.  Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports
Drake watches during Game 2 between the Toronto Raptors

Drake watches during Game 2 between the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards.  John E. Sokolowski, USA TODAY Sports
James Goldstein stands courtside before Game 2 of the

James Goldstein stands courtside before Game 2 of the series between the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.  Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft waves during

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft waves during Game 2 of the series between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.  Bob DeChiara, USA TODAY Sports
Lil Uzi Vert during Game 1 of the series between the

Lil Uzi Vert during Game 1 of the series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat.  Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports
Allen Iverson takes in Game 1 of the series between

Allen Iverson takes in Game 1 of the series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat.  Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports
Masters champion Patrick Reed walks off the court after

Masters champion Patrick Reed walks off the court after Game 1 of the series between the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves.  Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports
Drake watches during Game 1 between the Toronto Raptors

Drake watches during Game 1 between the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards.  Dan Hamilton, USA TODAY Sports

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