BOSTON -- Neither team has won in the other's gym over the last two heated years, and no one feels worse about it than the Cavaliers.
They lost 105-94 Friday to the Celtics minus
"For them to get this win tonight, that would have been devastating,'' said Celtics captain Paul Pierce (11 of 22, nine assists) after outscoring LeBron James (5 of 15, five assists) 29-21. "We put ourselves right back into the race.''
He was referring to the right to play Game 7 of the Eastern finals at home three months from now. That's what this is all about: The win put Boston in a virtual tie with Cleveland atop the Eastern Conference entering the closing quarter of the season.
A victory like this hurts the Cavaliers as much as it helps the reigning champions. Not only were the visitors unable to exploit Garnett's absence, they were murdered by his replacements. Powe, Davis (10 points)
"If they bring their big man away from the bucket,'' said Rivers, "we're going to get layups and duck-in dunks.''
This didn't quite feel like a playoff game, but it was as close as you'll find in early March. In spite of a poor first half, the Cavs had closed out both quarters to trail 45-43 at intermission. Three minutes into the third Davis was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul around the neck of
From that mess emerged
"No KG or with KG,'' said James, "they are going to be a great team because they buy into the system. A lot of teams can't afford to lose an All-Star, but they have two more. They lose KG, the heart and soul of the defense, but they still have two superstars that can keep up the same tempo.''
Powe surely exploited his opportunities in the seams created by Pierce, Allen (17) and Rondo's penetrations. So did Moore, who is being asked to do for this team what
In what might have been a lost weekend for the Celtics, they can now further deepen their aura when Orlando -- No. 3 in the East -- visits Sunday. They've gone 5-2 since Garnett was hurt, but they may miss him more than ever against the Magic and their three-point shooting power forward.
"Kevin can guard Rashard Lewis,'' said Rivers with a frown.
We'll see if Powe and the rest can handle that.