This game was simultaneously both frustrating and awesome. The first half sucked; the trailed 64-49 heading into halftime and they clearly weren't interested in playing defense. They weren't playing terrible, but Boston seemed to be getting all the loose balls and hustle plays. The Cavs stormed back in the second half and they were led by that LeBron guy. James scored 32 of his game high 42 points in the second half, seemingly willing himself to the rim, despite whatever Boston threw at him. Down by as many as 22, the Cavs fought back and even took the lead a few times in the fourth but they couldn't hold on and Boston escaped with the victory.
LeBron was the reason the Cavs were even in the game, but he still needed to be better (as weird as that seems). It's crazy to think that the guy who had 42 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, a steal and block needed to do more, but it's true. Despite going full on Video Game James to end the third and start the fourth, LeBron shot just 14-22 from the line (63%), including two big misses with under a minute to go. I loved seeing LeBron put his head down, attack and simply will himself to the rim but I hated how he settled for jumpers late in the game.
There were two jumpers that stood out. Down 115-113, missed two free throws and LeBron grabbed the board, raced down court and shot a pull up trey over two defenders with 4 seconds to go. Yes, James could've (and maybe should've) driven on the two Celtics, forcing a foul. But he also had Antawn Jamison all alone, right in front of the rim. Had LeBron missed short or the had the ball gone off the backboard, Jamison was in perfect position for a put back (instead, the ball careened to the left and out of bounds). Personally, that shot doesn't bother me nearly as much as the jumper LeBron hoisted two minutes prior. The Cavs had the lead (104-103) and the ball with just over two minutes to play and LeBron chucked a 20 footer with 15 seconds left on the . Ugh. If you run a good play to net a bucket and extend the lead, you've put a ton of pressure on the Celtics. Instead, LeBron settled for a long two without even making them work. This was doubly frustrating since James was getting to the rim whenever he wanted.
The refs were not good. Both the Cavs and the Celtics were jawing at the referees (and each other) throughout the afternoon (not without warrant). Coach Mike was kicked out after a tirade that came on the heels of a Mo Williams tech. To their credit (kinda) the Cavs had a legit beef. Mo was blatantly held by Tony Allen (like, literally grabbing the arm) which allowed Rondo to shake free for a wide open layup (all of this occurred right in front of the Cavs bench). The Celts weren't happy with the refs either; picked up another tech (shocking) and Rondo got a T late (after they missed him getting hit in the face). There were also BS plays, mostly some touch fouls in the post (on both sides) as well as getting an absurd continuation late in the first half. Bad refs or no, the Cavs didn't exactly handle themselves well when things didn't go their way. They picked up four techs total (LeBron showed up a ref in the fourth) and ended up losing by four points. I'm not saying that the techs cost them the game, but they sure didn't help.
LeBron actually had some help. Sorta. While I wouldn't say any of the other Cavs had standout performances, all five starters were in double figures and Z pitched in 10 off the bench before fouling out. Mo Williams started out hot and went 6-6 from the floor, but just two of his 17 points came in the second half (Mo sat the entire fourth). Both Jamison and J.J. Hickson finished with double-doubles (16-10 and 14-11, respectively) and each made a big basket in final period (Jamsion hit a three to make it 101-96 while Hickson put them up 106-105 off a pick-and-roll with James). What suprised me the most was how great Anthony Parker played. His bank shot with three minutes left gave the Cavs their first lead of the game (104-103) and he hit LeBron cutting baseline with a great pass (off of an offensive board) that led to some free throws. Also, AP's defense on Rondo forced the Celtics into a 24 second violation late in the game.
Besides Ray Allen and Rondo, no other Celtic really played well. Rondo was great, scoring 16 points and dishing out 14 assists. He absolutely killed Williams (including a three to end the half, after Mo let him roll ball up, allowing the Celtics to keep the game clock at 2 seconds). Allen finished 33 points, shooting 10-17 overall, 6-9 from behind the arc and 7-7 at the stripe (including those techs). Allen always seemed to hit a three right when they needed it (including one where J.J. blocked a shot directly to Allen). Meanwhile, KG scored 19 but went 5-14 from the floor and Paul Pierce shot 4-13 on his way to 16 points. The biggest difference (besides giving a crap for 48 minutes) was the fact that Boston shot 31-38 (81%) from the charity stripe while the Cavs missed double that, going just 24-40.
I'm strangely confident after this game. Yea, the Cavs just lost to Boston and missed a billion free throws. But Cleveland played about a poor a first half as you'll see 'em play, were down by as many as 22 and yet they still had a chance to win in the end. Plus, the Cavs were without both and . The game got quite chippy down the stretch and you can tell these guys plain just don't like each other. I can only hope and pray these teams meet in the second round.