Final Dime: Celtics 117, Cavaliers 113
LeBron James led everyone with 42 points in Sunday's loss.
Trailing by 22 points in the third – and having locked up the East’s top mark on Friday night – the Cavaliers could have cashed in on Easter Sunday. Instead, they staged a furious comeback – paced by LeBron James – that just came up short when LeBron’s three-point attempt drew front iron with 4.9 to play.
Kevin Garnett drained a pair of free throws to ice the 117-113 win, evening the season series between the two Eastern Conference adversaries.
Adversarial is the right way to describe Sunday afternoon’s affair. There were six combined technical fouls – a pair that got Coach Mike Brown tossed midway through the third – and words were exchanged both ways all afternoon. Even the unflappable MVP got his Irish up, getting into the middle of Boston’s huddle in the waning moments of Sunday’s loss.
Asked if he was surprised by the amount of talking in Sunday’s game, James responded, “No. We don’t like them, they don’t like us. So I wasn’t surprised at all.”
LeBron led everyone with 42 points, 20 of which he scored in the fourth quarter. James went 14-for-31 from the floor with nine assists, seven boards and a blocked shot. Unfortunately, Number 23 left quite a few points on the floor, going 0-for-9 from three-point range and 14-of-22 from the stripe.
Cleveland trailed by 15 at intermission and by 22 midway through the third. But in a game marred by technical fouls for Cleveland, it was a T called against Rasheed Wallace that seemed to turn the tide for the Cavs.
After getting rung up, Rasheed and Doc Rivers got into it before Wallace took a seat. From that point forward, the Wine and Gold went on a 25-7 run, culminating with Anthony Parker’s runner that gave Cleveland its first lead – 104-103 – with just under three minutes to play.
But Ray Allen scored seven of his team-high 33 points in the closing minutes to give Boston the win.
Six Cavaliers scored in double-figures, including Antawn Jamison and J.J. Hickson – who both notched double-doubles. Jamison netted 16 points and 10 boards and Hickson added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“Two teams aren’t going to back down from each other – that’s what this time of the year is all about,” said Jamison. “Unfortunately for us we didn’t find a way to get it done but we showed some character down the stretch.”
Anthony Parker and Zydrunas Ilgauskas pitched in with 10 points apiece. The Cavaliers – without the services of Anderson Varejao for the third straight game – didn’t get much from their bench on Sunday. Leon Powe picked up four fouls in the first half and Delonte West took the collar in 27 minutes of floor time.
The Cavaliers out-shot Boston as a team, but the Celtics shot 61 percent from beyond the arc. Cleveland once again struggled from the line – shooting just 65 percent to Boston’s 82.
Cleveland returns to The Q, where they'll tip off the final five games of the regular season with a Tuesday night battle with Toronto.
2. The Cavaliers are now 6-3 against Boston, Orlando and Los Angeles this season after going 3-7 last year. Cleveland has one more meeting with the Magic next Sunday.
3. LeBron’s 42-point effort on Sunday was his league-leading ninth 40-plus performance this season. Cleveland is 6-3 in those games.
4. The reigning MVP ends the season with a robust 36.5 ppg average against Boston. The 42-point game raised his career average against the Celts to 30.9 – passing Michael Jordan’s 30.7 average. The two are the only pair of players with career averages over 30 ppg against Boston.
5. The 22-point lead Boston opened against Cleveland in the third quarter was the largest deficit the Cavaliers have faced all year.
6. J.J. Hickson continues to impress. He doubled-up again on Sunday afternoon – his third of the season – and is averaging 14.3 points, 9.1 boards, and is shooting .585 from the field over the last six games.
7. Coach Mike Brown was shown the door with 6:02 to play in the third, storming Monty McCutcheon after he T’ed up Mo Williams. Williams was extremely upset over a non-call against Tony Allen and Brown needed to get his flat club fired up.
8. Antawn Jamison had another solid outing, but continues to struggle from the stripe, where he’s shooting just .458 as a Cavalier. Despite the 14-3 record, Cleveland is shooting under 70 percent as a team since March 1.
9. LeBron knows how to bookend a ballgame. He ranks second in scoring in the first quarter (8.8 points) and first in fourth-quarter scoring (7.9). He leads the league with a 14.8 ppg average in the second half of games and added to his league lead of 19 games with 20 or more points after intermission.
10. Even with the Cavaliers loss to Boston, the Spurs dropped the Lakers later on Sunday afternoon, giving Cleveland the league’s top record – and homecourt throughout the NBA playoffs.