Game Preview: Round 2, Game 6 - Cavaliers at Celtics
Thursday, May 13, 2010
TD Garden, 8 p.m.
RADIO: WEEI 850 AM
The schedule may not read "Game 7," but it might as well. Tonight's 8 p.m. Game 6 matchup at the Garden between the Cavaliers and Celtics has do-or-die written all over it.
"That's the way we've gotta look at it -- Game 7," said Glen Davis. "This is the last game. We've got to finish it, got to close it out. [Kevin Garnett] is right. We've got to make sure that we go into the game like it's our last."
It won't be Boston's last game of the season no matter what, but if the C's happen to lose this game it could be their last home game of the season. A Game 6 loss would secure a final trip to Cleveland for a pivotal Game 7, and that's a trip Davis and his teammates don't want to make.
"It's like our Game 7 coming up," Kendrick Perkins said at Wednesday's practice in Waltham. "We don't want to go back to Cleveland, so I think we just gotta come out with the right focus, the right mindset, and just play our game."
In order to finish off the Cavs tonight, the C's will need to play one of their best games of the series. It's difficult to imagine the team playing any better than they did during Game 5 Tuesday night in Cleveland, but they'll need to be around that level to overcome a Cavs team trying to fend off elimination.
"You know you're going to get Cleveland's best shot," said Doc Rivers. "You know LeBron (James) is going to play an amazing game, and we're going to have to be able to absorb that and still win the game."
Boston won Game 2 in Cleveland in blowout fashion as well, and when the Cavs took the court in the TD Garden for Game 3, James exploded for 21 points in the first quarter. With similar, more amplified circumstances surrounding this game, you'd have to expect him to come out and play much more effectively than he did in Game 5. Realistically speaking, Rivers certainly believes that James will have a much better night.
"Let's be honest, LeBron is a great player and he missed some shots that he normally makes, and we showed that on film, too," said Rivers. "He had five to nine shots that if we give him those [tonight] he's going to make those, so we can't live on all of the things we did [Tuesday]."
No matter what anyone expects to see out of James, Boston has already shown that they are capable of slowing him down. As long as the C's continue to play the type of team defense they've shown thus far, putting numerous bodies between James and the basket, the team should be able to handle his heightened play.
Over the past two games, the Celtics have proven that they have learned how to finish. They finished off Game 4 after the game was tied late in the third quarter, and they finished off Game 5 by extending their six-point halftime lead into a 32-point domination.
With a Game 7 mindset in tow, the Celtics have a golden opportunity to not only finish off a game tonight, but also finish off a series. Doing so will book them a trip to Orlando this weekend for a date in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Protect home court
After struggling at home in the regular season, to the tune of a 24-17 record, the Celtics have picked up their play to notch a 4-1 record in the Garden during the postseason. With that being said, the Cavs have already shown the ability to win a key game in Boston's building during this postseason.
The players even realize that this is a statement home game for them, as Davis said Wednesday that "we've got to show the fans that we can protect home court."
The fans in the Garden will most definitely be rocking tonight and there will likely be endless energy coming from the crowd. The C's will need to feed off of that early on and keep the fans in the game for 48 minutes. If they can do that, there is no doubt that they will be in position to close out the series in the final minutes of the game.
Be Varejao conscious
Is it odd that the scariest player on the floor for Cleveland might not be James? Anderson Varejao is such an energy-driven player that he has the ability to completely alter the landscape of a game with minimal statistics.
"You've just got to play hard every second when he's on the floor. He's tough, because there's no scouting report -- there's no one thing -- the guy plays with amazing amount of energy. He's always around the ball, and that means if you're in the game and matched up on him, you have to match that. And thus far I think our bigs have done a pretty good job of matching up with his energy."
Varejao dominated two games against Boston this season by using that energy, causing Rivers to say that he was the best player in both of those games. During the postseason, however the team has taken notice of his play and is conscious of where he is on every play.
"When you plan for a guy and he's in the scouting report, you know, the mentality is that when he's on the line we try to put two bodies on him at all times, we find his body at all times," said Davis. "It's on our body and brain like LeBron is."
The team will need to continue to be conscious of where he is tonight, because if they don't, Varejao could swing a bunch of momentum into Cleveland's favor.
Let the game come to you
This series has swung into Boston's favor because the Celtics are playing like a team right now. It seems as if the group is gelling at the perfect time and they have returned to the form that helped them jump out to a 23-5 start to the regular season.
Much of the success can be pinned on the fact that numerous Celtics are succeeding at both ends of the court and the players are letting the game come to them rather than forcing the issue.
"The ball will find what they're giving you," said Rivers. "I think at times we try to force the ball and force and make it happen. If you watch the first five minutes of [Game 5], that was us. All we tried to do -- everyone who grabbed it, was trying to force the action. We spent the whole timeout saying, ‘Just trust... the ball will find where they're telling you they want it to go, and that guy will hurt them.' "
Continuing that type of patience is going to be a key to success tonight, and with the team playing as well as it is of late, there's no indication that the C's will lose sight of that concept.