Final Dime: Celtics 120, Cavaliers 88
Shaquille O'Neal led Cleveland with 21 points in Tuesday night's loss.
Nathaniel S. Butler
For the second straight home playoff game, the Cavaliers were thoroughly outplayed. The big difference between last Monday’s 104-86 loss and Tuesday night’s 120-88 shellacking is that this loss puts the Wine and Gold squarely on the brink of elimination with the series headed back to Beantown for Game 6.
The Cavaliers got off to a good start, running out to a 29-21 lead early in the second quarter. But that would be as good as it would get for the Wine and Gold. Boston’s Big Three got warmed up and ran off 16 straight points, neutralizing a raucous Quicken Loans Arena. A three-point play by Zydrunas Ilgauskas before intermission got Cleveland to within six at half.
But Ray Allen started the second half with two straight three-pointers to extend Boston’s lead to a dozen, 56-44. The Cavaliers would get no closer the rest of the evening – getting to within 20 points of the Celtics just once in the final period.
“There was little that we did right throughout the course of the game,” said Coach Brown. “We can’t dismiss this game, we’ve got to look at it and see what we can do better in the next game. But, we have to get ready for Game 6.”
All five Celtic starters notched double-figures – led by Ray Allen’s 25 points – with Big Baby Davis coming off Boston’s bench for 15 more.
The Cavaliers shot just 41 percent as a team, with starters LeBron James, Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams combining to go 10-for-32 from the floor.
LeBron looked particularly out of sorts – attempting just four shots in the first half, hitting none. The two-time MVP didn’t fare much better in the second stanza – going just 3-for-10 from the floor and making just two trips to the line. He finished with as many turnovers as made field goals.
“We haven’t been there consistently throughout the playoffs,” said James. “As far as worried about the series, I’m not worried about it. It’s a good team that we’re going against and you would hope that you can be up 3-2 at this point, but we’re not. The next opportunity is this Thursday.”
Shaquille O’Neal had his best postseason performance as a Cavalier on Tuesday night, going 7-of-11 from the field to lead Cleveland with 21 points. The Diesel was 7-of-10 from the stripe and led all starters with four blocked shots.
The only other Cavalier to notch double-figures was Anthony Parker, who finished with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting.
The Cavaliers – who have now dropped two straight postseason games by an average of 25 points – were once again dominated on the boards, 41-31, and outworked on second-chance points, 23-7. The Cavaliers had five second-chance points roughly three minutes into the ballgame and managed just two more the rest of the way. That’s still an improvement on the zero they scored on Sunday.
Boston came into the semifinal series as the lowest-scoring fourth quarter team in the playoffs, but put up 40 in the final period on Tuesday. And after shooting 44 percent in the first quarter, shot at a 58 percent clip for the rest of the game.
The Cavaliers head to Boston on Wednesday, with their season on the brink. They rebounded well in Game 3 last Friday and will be fighting for their postseason lives when they return for Game 6 on Thursday night at the Garden.
2. Shaquille O’Neal has now notched double-figures in five of his last six playoff games and is shooting 63 percent (17-for-27) over the last three games. Maybe even more impressive has been the Diesel’s .683 free throw percentage during the postseason.
3. After three consecutive DNP-CD’s, Zydrunas Ilgauskas returned to the Cavaliers rotation to a standing ovation in the second quarter. In just over 14 minutes off the bench, Big Z went 2-for-5 from the floor and joined Shaq with four blocked shots to lead the Cavaliers.
4. Some of the familiar faces at The Q for Game 5 included former Cavalier guard and the self-proclaimed “best shooter in the universe” – Damon Jones. Seated about five seats away from the Cavs bench on the baseline was Kentucky coach John Calipari. And across from the scorer’s table were Browns defensive tackle Shawn Rogers and the team’s new president, Mike Holmgren.
5. The Cavaliers are now 3-1 in Game 5’s at home in best-of-seven series all-time when the series is tied 2-2.
6. Despite the Cavaliers underperforming in other areas, they’ve shot well from the stripe against Boston – a collective 76 percent. Mo Williams (17-for-21, .810) and Anderson Varejao (13-of-15, .867) lead the way for Cleveland.
7. Since the beginning of last season’s playoffs there have been a total of six triple-doubles registered. Rajon Rondo has four of them; LeBron has the other two.
8. Daniel Gibson also shook some of the rust off on Tuesday, albeit out of necessity. The hero of the 2007 postseason, Gibson played a total of 10:23 combined thus far in the playoffs and netted 12:23 off Mike Brown’s bench in Game 5.
9. Delonte West is shooting an even .500 (23-36) in the Cavaliers six wins this postseason; .263 (5-for-19) in their four losses. Win or lose, Delonte hasn’t missed a free throw in nine attempts.
10. The Cavaliers blocked 10 shots for the second time this postseason on Tuesday and lead the NBA with 7.0 swats per contest in the playoffs.