Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Lebron pulls a dissapearing act, Celtics smash the Cavs in a pivotal game 5
CLEVELAND (NBA.com exclusive) -- Three times Boston out-hustled Cleveland to secure an offensive rebound, and three times Celtics guard Ray Allen immediately followed with a 3-pointer.
In the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Celtics and Cavaliers, it's all just been a matter of who wants it more.
Right now, that honor belongs to the old pros from the one of the league's oldest franchises, as the visiting Celtics took a commanding 3-2 series lead with a 120-88 hammer job of the Cavs on Tuesday night.
Yes, it really is commanding, considering Game 6 is Thursday night -- in Boston. It's true that the Cavs already won there once in this series (Game 3), but it would be fair to wonder if they have the motivation to do it again. When it has meant the most, LeBron James and the Cavs have been playing their worst.
A lot of credit for that belongs to the Celtics, who just keep finding a way to not only win, but drive the point home. More than at any other time this season, they are displaying the passion, effort and all-around team play that resulted in a championship two seasons ago.
Not surprisingly, the men who led that previous run -- veterans such as Allen (25 points), Paul Pierce (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (18 points) -- are the same stars who are leading this one. Throw in point guard Rajon Rondo (16 points, seven assists), and some strong post play off the bench from Glen Davis (15 points), and these Celtics look every bit as good as the 2008 version.
That's especially true now that Pierce returned to form after four mostly off games. On Tuesday, he resembled his old self -- not only on offense, but in helping force LeBron James into a miserable 3-for-14 shooting performance and 15 measly points. That included zero field goals in the first half.
"The veterans are the key," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "The vets, they've been here before."
For the Celtics, nothing has been overly fancy, Rivers implied. It's just a more polished version of what they had been trying to do during the entire regular season.
"We were just sharing the ball, running our stuff," Rivers said. "We are who we are. We don't need anyone to play hero basketball. We have to be a team. We're good when we're a team."
That was on full display Tuesday, when the Celtics out-rebounded the Cavs (41-31), out-passed them (25-20 in assists) and took considerably better care of the ball (10 turnovers to the Cavs' 17).
And when it came to defending, it was a big no contest, as the Celtics shot a sizzling 55 percent, compared to a miserable 42 percent for the Cavs.
But even those numbers hardly tell how much of a blowout this really was, with Cavs fans loudly booing the home team midway through the third quarter. They only relented long enough to head for the exits much too early in the fourth.
James, who has been playing most of the playoffs with a strained elbow, wasn't the only Cavalier to struggle. Antawn Jamison, acquired in a late-season trade to help the Cavs win their first title, scored just nine points and didn't attempt a free throw. Also, starting point guard Mo Williams continued to labor, both in shooting the ball and in trying to defend Rondo.
"I missed a lot of open shots that I normally make," James said. "You don't see that out of me a lot so when it happens, it's a big surprise."
About the only good the Cavs could take out of this was the performance of Shaquille O'Neal (21 points, 7-for-11 shooting). That, and despite appearances, this series isn't actually over until someone wins four games.
Even Garnett knows that much.
"We cannot come back here," Garnett said. "We have to think this is our Game 7 coming up and we cannot afford to have the best team in the league have a Game 7 on their floor. Just not possible."
That said, James and the Cavs understand what they are up against. Winning twice on the other team's home floor in the same series isn't unachievable (the Celtics have proven that), it's just not exactly how you want to go about doing things.
"Our backs are against the wall," James said. "We've won on that floor before and we've got to get it done."