Let's hope there is no worse game than this over the remainder of the playoffs. The teams combined for 41 turnovers, and Cleveland almost won while shooting 30.7 percent. LeBron James, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were a combined 4-of-36. It was the equivalent of a scoreless soccer game headed into penalty kicks.
James was inexplicably 2-of-18 for 12 points with 10 turnovers. Pierce and James Posey spent most of the time guarding him with a lot of trapping help from Kevin Garnett (right) and other big men. Here was the key play: Trailing 74-72 with 21.4 seconds left, James took the ball on the left side and used a Zydrunas Ilgauskas screen to drive past Posey and Kendrick Perkins before missing a lay-in. Afterward, Boston coach Doc Rivers speculated that James had been expecting to be fouled, as the Celtics had one to give before the penalty; Rivers admitted it was a defensive mistake to allow James to drive in without being fouled. "He had a tough night; he's definitely entitled to it," said Cavaliers coach Mike Brown. "The one thing he tried to do -- he tried to attack, and I thought he had a good game defensively."
The Celtics' win was seized by Garnett, their only reliable starter offensively with 28 points (13-of-22 shooting). The Celtics were trailing 70-68 with 90 seconds left when Garnett scored their last two field goals on a long jumper, followed by the go-ahead drive on Cleveland's Joe Smith, who was in for Ben Wallace. "I noticed that they wasn?t trapping," said Garnett. "I saw a lane, and I just was aggressive."
Pierce tried to go to the basket early but was benched in the fifth minute after picking up his second foul. He went 2-of-14 overall while missing numerous open shots. Rivers believed that Pierce sacrificed offensive energy in order to defend James. "At this point of my career, I'm not going to worry about what I do statistically," said Pierce. "I'm looking at it like I can't play no worse than this, Ray can't play no worse, nor LeBron. It's setting up for an exciting series." How's that for seeing the glass as half-full?
Allen (0-for-4) went scoreless for the first time since 1997. "We've got to do a better job of getting him in rhythm," said Rivers, who promised to create more shots for Allen in the future.
On this anemic night, Sam Cassell's 3-for-5 performance in the second half (including a pair of big threes) stood out. He played down the stretch because, according to Rivers, "I knew we were going to the post -- and if you're going to the post, you need shooters out there."
The Celtics lost in the free-throw column for the seventh time in eight playoff games. If that trend continues, the Cavaliers will be able to overcome more poor shooting nights.
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.