I was pretty worried in the 3rd period. The Celtics had built a seven point lead, the Cavs offense wasn't moving... I'll be honest, I was waiting to see if they would fold or not. But they didn't. Maybe they've learned from their long playoff run of a year ago, but the Cavs stayed focussed for the entire game and got back into it.
The biggest loser of the night? Anderson Varejao. The Cavs 3rd quarter hero was Drew Gooden, who went 8-8 in the period- he kept the Cavs in the ball game. Now, say what you will about Gooden (and I have) but he had a monster night and the Cavs don't win this game if Varejao is starting in his place. Gooden finished with 24 points (on 11-15 shooting) and 13 boards and kept Kevin Garnett off the glass (just 5 boards for KG, who averages 12 a night).
That M-V-P chant at the end was a nice touch (noticed that no one cares about that Yankees cap any more, huh?). I'm not sure anyone is noticing (nationally or in Cleveland), but LeBron James is having a monster of a season. James finished the night with 38 points, 13 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. What makes his 38 points even more impressive is that the Celts were focussed on keeping LBJ out of the lane (and for the most part, they succeeded) and the ball out of his hands. LeBron hit some absolute daggers in the face of the Celtics defense (mostly Paul Pierce) and, oh by the way, made 14-15 from the line. The man is unstoppable right now.
You know who else is unstoppable? Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Check out this line from the big fella: 15 points (6-9 shooting), 14 boards, 5 assists and 4 blocks. Both Z and Gooden were key in keeping the Celtics off the boards (the Cavs outrebounded Boston 47-40, but did give up 10 offensive boards). Z has been playing great this season and, as of now, deserves his third all-star appearance.
The Cavs won the battle at the line. The Cavaliers shot 28-36 from the charity stripe (77%) while Boston was just 20-29 (69%) including two huge misses from Ray Allen at the end of regulation that could've put Boston up two with 20 seconds to go. And while we're here talking about free throws and such, I'd just like to say that, overall the refs weren't terrible, they weren't good either. Hell, Z was hacked the first play off the game and Pavlovic's foul on Allen (before his two misses) was really tough to swallow. This is the point of the recap where I'll bitch about Pavlovic not getting calls- because he doesn't. He got whistled for two pretty weak blocks and he should've gone to the line on at least one of his drives.
Speaking of Pavlovic, he had a great game. Pavs was jawing with KG for most of the evening (to be fair, most everyone was talking trash) and he took some huge shots down the stretch and in overtime. Sasha hit the game tying 3 with a minute left in regulation and he hit a big shot early in OT to put the Cavs up four (a lead they never relinquished). Pavlovic finished with 16 points (on 6-13 shooting), 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. His defense was a bit lax to begin the game (somehow Ray Allen kept getting open) but he picked it up in the second half and OT.
The bench wasn't much help and every Cavalier starter played at least 43 minutes. The Boston bench outscored their Cleveland counterparts 26-8. Devin Brown led the bench with 6 points (and one technical foul) and Ira Newble was the only other reserve to score. It worked out for one game, because Cleveland front court came up big, but if any of the starters were off, the Cavs could've been screwed.
Dear Cavs fans: please don't talk trash. Don't get me wrong, I hate the Celtics. I hate the 60 win predictions, I hate the talk of them chasing the Bulls' 72 wins (only 8 more losses to go!) and I'm more than a bit peeved that pundits have basically given them the Eastern Conference title. But the Cavs play in Boston this upcoming Sunday and it wouldn't be prudent to run your mouth before Sunday night. This was just one game (and a great win) but it's just one of many. The Cavs can't get too high on this, as they finish off their four games in five nights stretch in Detroit on Wednesday night. That being said, I think I'm going to enjoy this new rivalry, the game was physical and neither team seemed to like each other. I'll leave you with this paragraph from the AP wrap up, which brings a smile to my face:
During the closing minutes, James and Garnett exchanged a few choice words and both teams played as if it were a playoff game in June. After the final horn, there were no friendly hugs shared between two of the East's powers.