But he could not overcome the hefty helping of bad decisions shoveled out by his teammates and coach on this night.
Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals series between Boston and Cleveland is scheduled for 10:30am Sunday morning AEST, 20 May 2018. The Celtics have never blown a 2-0 series lead in the playoffs.
"We don't have a lot of guys that can drive and penetrate the paint once the ball comes out because we have the shooting", Lue said.
"I don't think tougher", Smith said afterward, showing better defensive instincts than during the game. Boston's third-quarter surge produced decibel levels on par with that seen in the Celtics' Game 2 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in which the team overcame a 22-point deficit and later raved about the noise inside the building. James, in fact, is 6-0 lifetime in Games 3 and 4 when his team has trailed 2-0 in the East playoffs. There wasn't much lacking from James on Tuesday. The roster at present doesn't appear able to legitimately contend for a championship, and the Cavs' salary cap situation would make it tough to bring marquee talent to surround James with.
Begin with JR Smith, who had 15 seconds worth of brain freeze that catapulted Cleveland into this loss.
But it might have been the hustle of Smart near the end of the first half that gave the Celtics life after the Cavaliers led by double digits with under four minutes to play in the second quarter.
SCOT-FREE. JR Smith gets slapped with a flagrant foul for shoving Al Horford during the game, but faces no further punishment.
James added 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
"That's a dirty shot", Smart said. "He's in the air".
This week's NBA Conference Finals saw the Warriors beat the Rockets for the first game of their series to steal home court, despite a heroic effort from James Harden. You just can't allow that to keep happening. To dig themselves out of that situation, the Cavaliers need to win four of the next five games or will watch another Eastern Conference team play in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2013 - which was shortly before the return of James. On the night, Smith was scoreless, going 0-for-7 from the field.
That erased a seven-point 55-48 Cleveland edge of what remained an 11-point advantage in the first quarter alone where James had 21 points.
Smith said there was no malicious intent on the play. "He's made big shots for us. We know that. They played well in that second half, and we've got to be ready to go on Saturday".
Smith acknowledged the silliness of his foul on Horford. It wasn't like I was trying to low-bridge him or something to make sure he didn't get it.
Smith was later issued with a flagrant foul over the push, which sent Horford crashing to the floor.
"So you know, 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".
Cleveland didn't find any more discipline down the stretch. They never had a chance in Game 1 - Boston led by 26 at halftime - and, though up 11 in the second period of Game 2 and by seven at halftime, quickly undid all that work by getting outscored 36-18 in another awful third quarter.