CLEVELAND -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens has gushed about LeBron James throughout a first-round series with the Cleveland Cavaliers. James volleyed that praise after Cleveland's Game 2 triumph on Tuesday night.
During an on-court interview with TNT, James said of a resilient Boston squad, "That's a very well-coached team. Very well coached, very well prepared."
That's noteworthy praise on the same day that Stevens finished fourth in the coach of the year balloting. James complimented Boston, which rallied from 14 down in the second half to make things interesting before the Cavaliers posted a 99-91 triumph to take a 2-0 series lead.
James scored 15 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter, after which Stevens heaped more praise on James.
"He's obviously a great competitor," Stevens said. "He's also the most physically talented and he's certainly one of the best mental players in the game. You add that together and you've got a heck of a guy, and a heck of a player. It's why he's considered one of the all-time best. It's why he's considered the best in the game now."
James took over the game in the fourth quarter Tuesday. ESPN Stats and Info notes that James had a touch on 73 percent of the Cavaliers’ possessions in the fourth quarter. On those possessions, the Cavaliers scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, compared to five points on 1-of-4 shooting on possessions James did not touch the ball.
Crowder on Thompson: 'The X factor'
Very rarely does a player go scoreless and have the sort of impact that Cleveland big man Tristan Thompson had on Tuesday night.
Thompson did not attempt a shot, but posted 11 rebounds, two assists and a steal over 26:21. He grabbed five of Cleveland's 12 offensive rebounds on the night. Thompson had 12 points and six rebounds in Sunday's Game 1.
"He's the X-factor for them, for sure," said Celtics guard Jae Crowder. "He's just going to the glass. You know he's not going to get that many touches; he just goes to the glass. And then [Timofey] Mozgov is sitting in the paint, they got a couple three-second calls, but I felt like they just sit in the paint and just wait for the ball go up and attack it. We have to focus a little more on those guys and take them out of the game."
Evan Turner echoed the sentiment.
"Tristan Thompson got some great offensive rebounds," he said. "He's very long. I think he pretty much won the game for them. He got a lot of great offensive rebounds, he kept plays alive, and gave them a second chance at it."
Said Stevens: "I thought at the end of the game, those offensive rebounds by Thompson obviously separated [the game] when we were coming back. Those were huge, huge plays."
• Isaiah Thomas had another solid outing while putting up a team-high 22 points on 6-of-14 shooting over 30 minutes. Asked if he planned to keep Thomas' minutes around the 32 he played in Game 1, Stevens said, "I think [that minute total is] about right. We ask him to do a lot when he's in there. This isn't a deal where he's standing in the corner, and I think we've got to be very cognizant of that. He's got the ball a lot, a lot's run for him, and there will be games where he'll play more. There will be games where he'll play a little bit less. But it's not easy to be the guy with the ball the whole time."
• The Celtics had some additional supporters on Tuesday night, as co-owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca sat courtside along with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and team president Rich Gotham.