The difficulties of LeBron James (right) continue. He was held to 21 points on 24 shots with seven turnovers; over the two games he is 8-for-42 with an even more surprising assist-turnover totals of 15 and 17, respectively. The Cavaliers hoped that increased ball movement and a hot start by Zydrunas Ilgauskas -- he made his first five shots to open a 21-9 Cleveland lead -- would loosen the Celtics' defense. But neither trend survived the opening quarter as the Celtics continued to collapse on James's drives, bumping and roughing him up whenever possible in hope of forcing him to settle for jumpers.
The Celtics are happy to see Ilgauskas (17-of-30 overall) leading Cleveland with 20.5 points in the two games while they've limited James, who Thursday heard sporadic chants of "Overrated!" from a small portion of the fans (the rest of them too smart to risk awakening him from his slump). Boston's style is déjà vu for James, who was held down by the Spurs in their NBA Finals sweep last year.
"They have athletic bigs with KG and [Kendrick] Perkins and [Leon] Powe," said James. "They do a good job of rotating out the back side and not allowing me to crack the second line of defense. I'm able to get by the first line and then I'm meeting the second line of defense."
Nonetheless, James sounded as if he's suffering from bad luck as much as anything. "The layups I'm usually making are just jumping out of the rim, and the jumpers I usually make are not falling for me," he said. "I'm more frustrated with the turnovers I've had more than anything."
Ray Allen had no points at halftime, extending his scorelessness in the series to an agonizing 58 minutes (0-for-7 from the field overall, 0-for-1 from the line). At last he broke out with a layup 23 seconds into the third quarter, followed by a pair of free throws earned by driving past Wally Szczerbiak. Allen produced half of Boston's points in its half-opening 12-2 run that seized a 56-38 lead, and he finished with a respectable 16 points overall. "I thought he was pressing a little bit," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I told the coaches at halftime, 'We're going over and over to him, we've got to get him going.' The first shot (of the second half) he missed it, and he got the loose ball and the layup: Shooters need something to get them going, it doesn't matter what it is."
The Celtics bench outscored the starters 20-7 in the second quarter to turn the game Boston's way. Trailing by 8 points early in the second quarter, a Boston lineup of four subs and the scoreless Allen began a 26-4 run that resulted in a 44-36 lead for the Celtics at halftime. "We started off flat," said Rivers. "The second unit saw that; they came out and did it. No adjustments -- we didn't make a defensive adjustment. They just got to places quicker and faster." Their work energized the more celebrated half of the rotation. "It was almost like every loose ball tonight, the Celtics beat us to it," said Cleveland coach Mike Brown.
Ben Wallace played 3:40 before leaving the game while complaining of dizziness in the second quarter. He attempted to warm up for the second half but suffered the same symptoms and watched the rest of the game from the locker room. The Cavaliers were planning to evaluate his condition Friday in Cleveland. "To lose him was tough," said Brown, "but that's not why we got beat tonight."
The Celtics (27-of-38) earned 11 more free-throw attempts than the Cavaliers. It was only the second time in nine playoff games that the Celtics have won that column, and a big plus for a team that has shot a disappointing 42.3% from the field in postseason.
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