CLEVELAND -- The proud Celtics recovered from their Game 1 collapse to demolish the Cavaliers with a 21-4 third-quarter run and beat Cleveland 104-86 Monday, while seizing homecourt advantage and deadlocking the series at 1.
The Cavs played a strong Game 4 in the first round at Chicago, but otherwise have been stuck in third gear or below. Apart from the closing 18 minutes of their Game 1 comeback win, they've been outscored by Boston 173-144 -- despite attempting 30 more free throws combined. Over the two games, Boston is outshooting Cleveland on both sides of the three-point line, while generating more rebounds and assists. It goes without saying the Cavs can't beat these rejuvenated Celtics -- and would have even less hope against Orlando in the next round -- by maintaining this low gear.
Out of respect for their strong regular season as the No. 1 seed of the playoffs, the talent of MVP
"Nothing is going to be given to us at all,'' said the coach, who was atypically angry during his postgame interview. "Ain't a (---)damn thing going to be given to us at all in this series. It's not good enough for me, it's not good enough for anybody in that locker room, and if we expect to win this series we have got to bring more of a sense of urgency than we brought tonight.''
It's going to be interesting to see how Brown channels this emotional demand for intensity over the next three off-days going into Game 3 Friday in Boston -- especially since James appeared far more calm after the loss. He said Brown had shared little fire with his players in the privacy of the locker room. "He didn't say much after the game,'' James told reporters. "He must not love you like he loves us, I guess.''
The Celtics cut off James's driving lanes and afterwards coach
On both nights of the series, James has worked his way into the game before attempting jump shots, leading to speculation that his sprained and bruised right shooting elbow was limiting his options. "I'm going to continue to try to be the player I am,'' he said when asked about his elbow. "I would never use the injury as an excuse. Tonight, I was OK, but as a team all of us were just OK -- that's why we lost tonight on our court.''
Brown didn't want to hear anymore talk of James's injury. "His elbow's fine, he has not said anything to me,'' said Brown. "If it's hurt, it's news to me. I have not heard anything about it.''
The next three days are going to be very telling for Cleveland. Brown's response was not unlike that of any coach after a miserable playoff loss.
"It isn't supposed to be easy,'' said James calmly. "It's the playoffs. We're going to have losses, we're going to have bumps and bruises. It's how you react to the next game -- that's why I'm sitting here talking the way I'm talking. I'm focused for the next game.
"I don't feel pressure at all. I'm looking forward to Game 3 and that's the most important game at this point.''
The Celtics had gone passive on the back end of the third quarter of Game 1, much as they had played without energy in too many second halves this year. On Monday, however, they responded to Rivers's demands by exuding energy and then withstanding a fourth-quarter run by the Cavs, who cut the deficit down to 10 with four minutes remaining. But a
It's hard to remember the last time the Celtics put together four intensive quarters against a leading opponent. Can they string together several more of these performances over the week ahead?
The Celtics were in foul trouble late in the first quarter when Rivers went with a second unit of Wallace,
Wallace was especially inspiring, making all five of his shots for a team-best 13 points at halftime. Last week, Celtics GM
"He had a great floor game,'' said Rivers. "That's his second one in the playoffs, I would say. He felt the game through the coach, and when you get that with a point guard there's no better feeling.''
As easily as Rondo is able to drive to the basket, his scoring can sometimes hurt the Celtics when it excludes his fellow stars from the offense. On this night a half-dozen Celtics scored in double figures with Rondo making certain to feed
Rondo's other impact is that he's winning his matchup against Cleveland point guard