Monday, March 15, 2010
Cavs prove they are the team to beat in the East, pound Boston at home
CLEVELAND (AP)—Leon Powe(notes) has seen the Boston Celtics at their best. They aren’t there anymore.
After coming off the bench and helping the Cleveland Cavaliers put away the Celtics 104-93 on Sunday, Powe, who won an NBA title with Boston in 2008, took a moment to reflect on his former team, a squad showing signs of age and perhaps vulnerability.
“Looking at the defense from the championship year, when we won it, it doesn’t look the same,” Powe said. “It looks like the rotation is slower and they ain’t getting to the shooters and closing out like they did before. I don’t know if it’s effort or maybe they’re a little older.The Celtics looked it.
LeBron James(notes) scored 24 of his 30 points in the second half and the Cavs wore down the Celtics for their second decisive win over one of the East’s premier teams in less than a month.
The Cavaliers were closer to full strength with the return of forward Antawn Jamison(notes), who had 15 points and 12 rebounds after missing one game with a sore knee. Anderson Varejao(notes) had 17 points, 10 boards and drove the Celtics crazy with his nonstop hustle.
“I thought one guy completely dominated the game and that was Varejao,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Loose balls, activity, getting under our skin, he’s doing what he should do. That was very frustrating. He was so active. He moved his feet and we didn’t.”
Last month, the Cavs beat the Celtics by 20 in Boston. In that game, Cleveland center Shaquille O’Neal(notes) sustained a serious thumb injury and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
The Cavs don’t appear to be missing him right now.
Ray Allen(notes) scored 20, while Paul Pierce(notes) and Kevin Garnett(notes), who was in foul trouble for most of the game, had 18 apiece for the Celtics.
Boston’s Big Three was no match for Cleveland’s Chosen One.
James added eight rebounds, seven assists and three blocks in another MVP-type performance. He also shook off being accidentally poked in the left eye in the third quarter by Garnett.
“I’ve got kind of a headache right now,” said James, whose area around his eye was discolored. “I was lucky to be able to finish the game. It stayed blurry for about 15 minutes. It wore off close to the end of the fourth quarter.”
Leading by eight after three, the Cavs scored the first nine points in the fourth. Cleveland’s defense, which usually gets tougher in the final 12 minutes, forced the Celtics to take bad shots and Boston missed its first eight shots in the fourth. The Cavs have held the Celtics to 24 percent shooting (10 of 41) in the past two fourth quarters.
“Defensively, we were awesome in the fourth,” James said. “Fourth-quarter time is our staple and that’s when we turn up the aggression. That’s exactly what we did.”
The Cavs appeared in control and on their way to a runaway win when Jamison’s basket made it 91-74. But Pierce hit a 3-pointer and Allen followed with one of his own as the Celtics, who went scoreless for a span of 7:09 bridging the third and fourth quarters, fought back.
James, though, converted a three-point play to put the Cavs back in control and his two free throws put Cleveland up 101-89 with 2:03 left.
James then capped Cleveland’s 29th home win by crossing over Kendrick Perkins(notes) near the foul line, driving inside and dropping a left-handed layup while being fouled. James seemed annoyed the Celtics would have the audacity to put Perkins on him.
“He (Perkins) was kind of talking to me a little bit when I was dribbling,” James said. “I just used my talents to get around him and get an and-one. It wasn’t disrespectful, though. It’s OK.”
Rajon Rondo(notes) had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Celtics.
The teams were meeting for the first time since Feb. 25, when O’Neal hurt his thumb when he was fouled by Boston’s Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Cleveland fans have been angered by TV replays, which appeared to show Davis grabbing and squeezing O’Neal’s thumb after the injury occurred.
Before the game, Davis strongly denied he tried to hurt O’Neal, a fellow LSU product and a player he has always revered.
“I did not try to break Shaq’s hand,” Davis said. “That’s crazy. Why would I try to do that? I wasn’t trying to grab his hand. You know how you try to frustrate somebody or just mess with them, get his balance off? That was a freak accident, really.”
Davis was aware of the accusations.
“I heard about it,” he said. “I don’t even remember touching his hand.”
Davis was booed when he entered the game in the first quarter and every time he touched the ball. He expected the rude treatment.
“I’m not popular at all anywhere,” he said.
Davis added to his villainous reputation in the second quarter when he was faked off his feet and flattened Jamison, who was setting up to shoot. In the third, he sent Varejao sprawling into the front row with a shoulder bump.
“My job is to play hard,” Davis said. “Energy guy, get loose balls, go out there and try to be a factor. I’m trying to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. I’m not trying to hurt nobody.”
Powe still has plenty of friends on Boston’s roster and would love to face them in the playoffs. The Celtics are known as one of the league’s top trash-talking teams, but they don’t go after Powe.
“They don’t say anything to me,” he said. “It’s all love over there. They just ask how I’m doing, stuff like that. They wouldn’t trash talk me.
“Well, maybe K.G.”