Ford Keys to the Game: Cavaliers 95, Celtics 112

Ford Keys to the Game

Cavaliers 95, Celtics 112

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

Nate Robinson

Nate Robinson flies through the air high above the court to grab a loose ball during Boston's blowout victory in the Garden.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

Key Moments are a dime a dozen during an NBA game. Season-changing moments? Those are a bit more special.

The Boston Celtics had an emotional and victorious night tonight when their starting center, Kendrick Perkins, made his return to the lineup as a reserve just six months after undergoing knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. It was a great moment for the C's to welcome him back onto the floor, and it was completely unexpected as of Monday morning.

“I just asked [athletic trainer Ed Lacerte], I said, ‘So what do you think – Perk?’ He said, ‘I think when we come back from the West Coast trip.’ Rivers said of Perkins’ targeted return date as of Monday morning. “And then Perk had a great practice and Dr. (Brian) McKeon and Eddie came up and said, ‘Let’s change what I told you this morning.’ And so in that little time span it changed”

The target date did change, and that was one of many things that changed tonight. Perkins’ return to the lineup gave the TD Garden and the Boston Celtics a boost of energy it had been missing all season, and it helped lead the team to a blowout victory over the Cavaliers.

“[Energy was] one good thing that I thought bringing Perk back would help us with tonight, because they were excited,” said Rivers. “Before the game, I kind of welcomed him back to the team. You could see it. They were clapping; they were very – they were really excited.”

That excitement helped turn the game around, as Perkins entered the game to a standing ovation with 8:02 remaining in the first quarter.

“There’s people in the crowd that work hard every day, blue collar, and Perk identifies with all those people,” said Rivers. “And all you finesse people in here (referring to the media), I mean, Perk… (laughs.)… but really, you know that. I mean, Perk is – if you are a guy that works 9-5, you’ve got to love Perk because that’s who he is.”

The crowd definitely showed Perk plenty of love as he walked onto the court, but Ramon Sessions put a damper on the moment when he hit two free throws during that stoppage of play, leaving Boston’s lead at only three points. But just 72 seconds after Perk checked into the game, the C’s had already jumped ahead by seven and eventually led by eight heading into the second period.

Sure, the emotional lift he gave to the team was great, but it’s not like he didn’t perform at a high level, too. Perkins notched seven points, six rebounds (three offensive) and three assists in just over 17 minutes of playing time. That’s great efficiency for any reserve player. Doing that in your first game back after six months off? Unbelievable.

Perkins felt so good tonight, in fact, that he didn’t even want to come off of the court when Rivers tried to take him out. The big man walked the baseline and looked away from Luke Harangody as he checked into the game. Perk actually attempted to have Glen Davis leave the game instead of him. That’s typical for a blue collar guy like Perk.

His big moment tonight was a Key Moment of this game, but it was also an enormous moment for Boston’s season. He may have been worrying about playing more minutes tonight, but that likely won’t be the case as the Celtics chase down their ultimate dream of a championship.

Key Box Score Line

Kendrick Perkins had the big return, but Paul Pierce had the big night in the box score. Boston’s captain dropped 24 points on the Cavs while attempting just 15 shots. He scored all of those points in the first half. In contrast, two Cavaliers (Christian Eyenga and Antawn Jamison) attempted at least 14 shots apiece and neither scored more than 15 points in the entire game.

Pierce’s shooting numbers finished up looking like this: 8-of-15 from the floor, 2-of-5 from 3-point range and 6-of-7 from the free-throw line. While Pierce carried the Celtics offensively in the first half, he also contributed in other areas. Pierce yanked down four rebounds, dished out two assists and grabbed one steal, all while turning the ball over only one time.

The numbers would be impressive on any night, but Doc Rivers couldn’t help from noting why, on this night, they were exceptional.

Said Rivers: “That’s who Paul is. I mean, I think – what did he score more points than he played minutes tonight?”

Box Score Nuggets

  • Each team attempted 25 free throws, with Boston making 17 and Cleveland making 16.
  • Paul Pierce scored a game-high 24 points in less than 24 minutes of playing time.
  • All of Pierce's points came in the first half.
  • None of the members of the Big Three played more than 25:16.
  • Boston was outscored 40-36 in the paint.
  • Each team had seven players finish in double-figures in scoring.
  • Every player who appeared in the game scored at least two points.
  • No Cavalier player scored more than 15 points, while Boston had Pierce and Ray Allen score 24 and 18 points, respectively.
  • All five of Boston's reserves scored between seven and 11 points. Glen Davis and Nate Robinson each had 11.
  • Rajon Rondo (11 points, 10 assists) and J.J. Hickson (12 points, 17 rebounds) were the only players to notch double-doubles.
  • Hickson also dished out a career-high five assists and tied his career high with four blocks.
  • Kendrick Perkins returned to the lineup and notched seven points, six rebounds and three assists in only 17:10 of playing time.
  • On Rondo's fourth assist of the night, he moved into 10th place on the all-time assist list for the Celtics.
  • Semih Erden grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
  • Five Cavaliers, including four starters, attempted exactly two free throws.

Quote of the Night

Ray Allen on what Kendrick Perkins' return to the lineup means for Boston: "Him coming back has a great symbolism to it. We know what we are trying to get back to."