Final Dime: Celtics 97, Cavaliers 87


Antawn Jamison finished with 14 points in Sunday's loss in Boston.
Nathaniel S. Butler
NBAE/Getty Images
1. At times during the series, Boston’s Rajon Rondo has been the best player on the floor. And on Sunday afternoon at the Garden, the elusive Celtics guard unveiled a new twist to confound the Cavaliers.

After keeping him relatively in check in Game 3, Rondo had his way again on Sunday – turning in a man-sized triple-double and leading both teams in rebounds with 18, as the Celtics muscled past the Wine and Gold, handing Cleveland the 97-87 loss to even the series at 2-2.

The Eastern Conference Semis head back for Game 5 on Tuesday night at The Q.

After jumping out to an early lead, the Cavaliers fell behind and trailed for most of the afternoon. Cleveland managed to tie the affair at 72-apiece late in the third quarter, but after Shaquille O’Neal picked up his fifth foul early in the fourth, the Celtics mounted an 8-0 run to give themselves some breathing space.

After trailing by a dozen, 86-74, midway through the fourth, the Wine and Gold clawed their way back again – drawing to within three, 88-85, on Anderson Varejao’s and-1 with 2:43 to play. But Boston would answer once more, scoring the next three field goals to put the contest out of reach.

“It’s a 48-minute game, we can’t afford to play a half on the road against a team like this,” lamented Coach Brown. “You have to come out and you’ve got to establish yourself from the beginning; you’ve got to set the tone and it’s got to be there for 48 minutes of the ballgame. And tonight, it wasn’t.”

Of course, it was Rondo at the epicenter of Boston’s fourth quarter push – netting eight points, seven boards and three assists in the period. He finished with game-highs in points (29), rebounds (18) and assists (13).

“It starts with Rondo,” praised LeBron James. “He’s kind of their energy who really gets them going as far as running down the court and making plays. He does everything for them and you could see it tonight. His performance was unbelievable.”

The Cavaliers didn’t shoot well from the floor on Sunday – barely over 40 percent – but still managed five starters in double-figures.

LeBron wasn’t the force that we has on Friday, leading Cleveland with 22 points on 7-for-18 shooting, barely missing a triple-double with nine rebounds, eight assists and a pair of steals. On the negative side of the ledger, James led both squads with seven turnovers.

The two-time MVP never got fully untracked in the second half – going just 4-for-10 from the floor; 2-of-7 in the fourth quarter alone.

Shaq had his most assertive offensive game of the series – possibly the postseason – following up with 17 points, five boards and a pair of blocked shots.

Antawn Jamison added a quiet 14 points on an even 6-for-12 shooting. Mo Williams and Anthony Parker added 13 and 10 points, respectively, but were a combined 6-for-16 from the floor.

The Cavaliers didn’t get much production off their bench, with Anderson Varejao leading Cleveland’s reserves with eight points. He and Delonte West (three points on 0-for-7 shooting) were the only players to score. By comparison, Boston’s Tony Allen finished 6-for-7 from the floor in 26 minutes to lead the Celtics’ second unit.

The Cavaliers had the tables turned on Friday’s blowout win – losing the rebounding battle badly, 47-33. Cleveland was on the short end in points in the paint (50-40), second-chance points (13-0) and on the fastbreak (23-7).

With the series tied at two games apiece, the action shifts back to The Q on Tuesday night, where the Cavaliers will look to rebound after taking it on the chin one week earlier.

2. On Friday, the Cavaliers got their first playoff win in the Garden since 1992 – handing the Celtics their worst home postseason loss ever. But after Sunday’s loss, their record in Beantown falls to 2-12, all-time.

3. The Cavaliers are now 70-76 (.479) all-time in the postseason – 47-26 at home, 23-50 on the road.

4. After going 7-for-11 from the stripe on Sunday, Shaquille O’Neal is now 13-for-19 (.684) from the line in the series. Antawn Jamison, who struggled from the stripe down the stretch in the regular season, is also 13-of-19 against Boston.

5. LeBron’s career scoring average of 29.5 ppg is the highest amongst any player in the 2010 Playoffs and is third all-time, behind only Allen Iverson (29.7 ppg) and Michael Jordan (33.4 ppg). No other player in playoff history has ever averaged 25.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game

6. Leon Powe got a brief, early run on Sunday, checking in to a big ovation at the Garden. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, on the other hand, logged his third DNP-CD of the series.

7. By grabbing his only steal of the night, Anderson Varejao moved into second place on the Cavaliers all-time postseason steals mark with 64. LeBron is the franchise leader with 112.

8. Both teams shot a combined 5-for-35 (.142) from beyond the arc on Sunday afternoon.

9. After eight games played this season – regular and post – between Boston and Cleveland, the record is even at 4-4, with each team winning two games in the opponents’ gym. Before this season, the two clubs had gone 16 straight games with the home team winning each time.

10. The Cavaliers return to their playoff sanctuary at The Q – where they’ve won 13 of their last 15 playoff games and are 26-8 (.765) since 2006.