Celtics 93, Cavaliers 101
The Cleveland Cavaliers used an 11-3 run, led by seven points from LeBron James and four from Shaquille O'Neal, to close out Game 1 and notch a 101-93 victory, but they wouldn't have even been in position to pull out a win if it wasn't for the big-time run they put together to close out the third quarter.
Boston carried an 11-point lead into the third quarter but was able to withstand an initial blow from Cleveland's to open the second half. Although the Cavs quickly trimmed that least to five, the C's were able to bump their cushion back up to 11 after Ray Allen sandwiched two 3-pointers around a James threeball. Allen's 3-pointer dropped through the net at the 6:03 mark of the quarter.
Mike Brown called for a Cleveland timeout just seconds later, and the Cavs regrouped to make another run before the third period ended. That timeout was all Mo Williams needed to pump some life into his veins, and he completely changed the game over the next two minutes.
After Anthony Parker missed a 3-point shot out of Cleveland's timeout, Rajon Rondo turned the ball over for the C's at the other end. Williams played the role of thief on that turnover, and he wasn't interested in giving the ball up on the ensuing fast break. He showed no signs passing as he streaked down the court with a teammate flanked to his left, and Paul Pierce took notice. Pierce slowed down and allowed Williams to get a step ahead of him in hopes that he could block Williams' shot from behind, rather than picking up his fourth foul. But the way this play ended up, the fourth foul might have been a better bet.
Williams rose up from the floor as he drove down the right side of the lane and cocked his right arm back in preparation for a fast break slam. Pierce made his move from behind and swung for the block, but when he missed, Williams was able to follow through with a thunderous slam dunk that woke the Quicken Loans Arena up and changed the tempo of the game. That dunk shocked everyone in the building, because it was reportedly Williams' first slam in a Cavaliers uniform.
But his work wasn't over there. Williams continued his run after Kevin Garnett turned the ball over for Boston by draining a quick step-back jumper to cut the lead down to seven. He then followed that up with two more jump shots and two free throws, which capped a 10-4 run that he single-handedly put together. That spurt brought the score to 73-68 Celtics, but Cleveland was in complete control. James wound up making a tip-in at the buzzer of the third period to give the Cavs their first lead since being ahead 7-6 in the first quarter, and they ran to the victory lane from there.
Key Box Score Line
The box score will tell you that the best player on the court tonight was LeBron James, but Rajon Rondo's impact on this game would beg to differ. Rondo dominated the first half of the game, forcing the Cavs to switch their defensive assignments in the second half, and finished with a team-high 27 points and game-high 12 assists while also chipping in six rebounds.
It wasn't just the numbers he accumulated that made this performance special -- it was the way he accumulated them. His offensive efficiency was off the charts, making 70 percent of his shots (7-of-10) and 86.7 percent of his free throws (12-of-14). He was able to knife his way to the basket at any given moment, and that will certainly be something the Cavaliers' coaching staff will attempt to prevent in Game 2 Monday night.
Box Score Nuggets
- Boston committed 16 turnovers to Cleveland's 11.
- The Celtics shot only 4-of-16 from 3-point range.
- Boston shot 17-of-21 from the line, while Cleveland shot 21-of-31.
- Rajon Rondo took a game-high 14 free throw attempts.
- Each team finished with 41 rebounds.
- LeBron James recorded 35 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while shooting 50 percent from the floor.
- Boston was whistled for 25 fouls, while Cleveland was called for only 17.
- Seven Celtics finished with at least three fouls.
- Kevin Garnett (three blocks) and Kendrick Perkins (two blocks) combined for five of Boston's six blocked shots.
- Garnett finished the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds but did not attempt a single free throw.
- Perkins grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
- Shaquille O'Neal scored 11 points in only 19:52 of foul-plagued playing time.
- The teams were nearly identical in scoring in the paint and on the fast break: Cleveland scored 54 points in the paint to Boston's 52, and the Cavs scored 16 fast break points to Boston's 15.
- Cleveland scored 23 points off of Boston's 16 turnovers.
- Paul Pierce scored only 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting and finished with a game-high four turnovers. He had the worst plus/minus rating of the game at minus-14.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on the Celtics' struggles down the stretch: "I thought that third and fourth quarter, we decided to settle with our jump shots. Very rarely did we go down low and play in-and-out basketball anymore. Their pressure had a little bit to do with it, so give them credit. I just thought we got we went away from our game plan, and we didn't sustain 48 minutes of focus."