Celtics Outlast Cavaliers In Opener

By Stephen Alford
Updated: May 7, 2008

BOSTON — Celtics Nation should not expect Game Two of the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs to be as ugly as the first game. We won’t see LeBron James convert only two shots from the field after attempting 18 of them.

And we probably won’t see him miss too many good looks at the basket, like the layup he missed in the closing seconds of the game that would have tied it at 74.

“Guys have nights like that, but it is unusual to see him have a night like that from the field,” said Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown after Game One. “He very seldom has a game like this, but he will bounce back and play a terrific game in Game Two.”

“He had a tough night, and he is entitled to it…He tried to attack which is good, and knowing him he will definitely bounce back in Game Two.”

Despite shooting so poorly from the field, the young King was one rebound and one assist shy of a quadruple-double, which would have included his 10 turnovers.

“It was tough defensive minded game. I thought both teams came out and competed and Boston just happened to come on top,” Brown continued. “They had one more stop than us and one more basket down the stretch which helped them get the win.”

“You have to tip your hat to them for the win. They came out in the second half and they were aggressive. I thought our guys on both ends of the floor tried to execute and really tried to come out and play for the entire 48 minutes.”

“You just try and run (LeBron James) into the help,” said Celtic captain Paul Pierce. “I mean, 1-on-1, he is tough just driving to the hole with his strength, the way he can knock down shots. We just tried to direct him toward where the help is. Where Kevin, where Perk is, and make his finishes tough at the rim and then we just try and keep him out of the fast break, limit easy opportunities.”

“That’s what our defense is. That’s what we tried to do last series with Joe Johnson and definitely you got to do it with LeBron. He is not going to come out and play and go 2-for-18 every game, but we are going to go out there and do our best to try and make him.”

Celtics Nation can also take solace in the fact that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen probably will not have a shooting night like they did on Tuesday. The duo combined to match James’ poor shooting performance, as Pierce scored 14 points on 2-for-14 from the field, and Allen was held to a doughnut in the points column, going no-for-4 from the field.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said fatigue from the Atlanta series may have been a factor in Tuesday’s game. But his job for Game Two is two find a way to get 2/3 of the Boston Three Party into an early rhythm.

“We never established Ray or Paul in this game,” said Coach Rivers. “You know Paul tried to get it going but just didn’t have it tonight. Obviously, to get away with a win with those two shooting the way they did is pretty good.

Even King James was surprised that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen couldn’t put the ball in the basket.

“I don’t expect him (Paul Pierce) to play like he played tonight, him or Ray,” said James. “I mean, tonight was a very offensive struggle game. Defensively, both teams are locked in. Now we just got to get ready for Game Two.”

If it wasn’t fatigue, the fact that Pierce picked up two fouls early in the first quarter and had to go to the bench with 8:13 still remaining in the opening frame, or the fact that he had to focus on containing LeBron may have been a factor to his shooting performance.

“There is a lot of things I got to do to help this ball club,” told the Truth. “And you know, unfortunately, the offense wasn’t there. But hey, we preached defense all year long. That’s the way we try and win games and that’s about it.”

Pierce’s offensive performance didn’t seem to bother him at all, as he appeared to be in a very jovial mood after the Game One.

“At this point in my career, I’m not really worried about what I do statistically out there on the court,” said Pierce. “I am just trying to help my ball club win. You know, I was looking at it like I can’t play no worse than this and we got a win.”

“Again, Ray can’t play as bad as he did, or LeBron, so I think we’re setting ourselves up for an exciting series man. It was Game One. Obviously, it was ugly, but I look forward to getting even better and better.”

Despite not playing in most of the fourth quarter, Celtic point guard Rajon Rondo still was able to record 15 points, six assists, and five rebounds. The second year player out of Kentucky provided a much needed jumpstart for the Celtics by being responsible for his team’s first 12 points (eight points, two assists) after the Green could not find the basket in the first four minutes of the game.

Sam Cassell proved how valuable he can be to the Celtics when he lit up Cleveland for 10 points in the crucial fourth frame, including two shots from beyond the arc. Look for Sam I Am to be the X-Factor for the Celtics throughout the series.

“The one thing about Sam is he’s going to take the shot if it’s there,” said Doc Rivers. “He has no problem taking it and that’s why we brought him in here.”

Celtics Nation is hopeful that Kevin Garnett can have the same impact in Game Two as he did in Game One. The Big Ticket was the only Celtic who consistently delivered baskets throughout the game when the Celtics needed them the most, scoring a game-high 28 points on 13-for-22 from the field, including a nifty, game-winning spin move after driving down the middle on Cavaliers reserve Joe Smith.

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown had just inserted Smith in the game for Ben Wallace, hoping to get better offense after Sam Cassell had just given Boston a two point advantage with two converted free throws (72-70) with 12.8 seconds remaining in the game.

The Cavaliers were able to tie the game when Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas recorded his 12th rebound and 22nd point of the game by tipping in Lebron’s 14th misfire from the field, but Joe Smith was still on the floor when the Celtics had possession of the ball.

“I made the switch hoping we would score,” said Coach Brown, referring to the substitution. “Kevin made a tough shot….When we had looks that didn’t go in. Kevin was the one who was carrying them. Kevin Garnett was the one who was carrying them offensively.”

“If you’re Cleveland you are thinking that they almost won with LeBron playing like that, said Coach Rivers. “If you’re us, we’re thinking we won with Paul and Ray not scoring.”

King James, The Truth, and Sugar Ray He Got Game will most likely bounce back from Game One and play the rest of the series the way we are all used to seeing them perform. We’ll see whose performance will have a bigger impact for their team in Game Two on Thursday.