CLEVELAND, April 19 (Ticker) --
Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers
Cleveland Cavaliers a huge favor.
Taking advantage of a young lineup that Rivers went with in the
fourth quarter, the Cavaliers kept alive their playoff hopes
with a 100-86 victory over the Celtics.
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Cleveland (41-40) remained tied with New Jersey for the Eastern
Conference's final playoff spot. But the Cavaliers would lose
the tiebreaker and need a win in their season finale at Toronto
or a Nets loss at Boston on Wednesday to secure their first
playoff berth since 1998.
"I could tell in the walk-through today (that) they were really
locked in," Cavaliers coach Brendan Malone
said. "I told them
to have a good time. 'Have fun tonight. Don't put any pressure
on yourself. This is not a life-and-death situation. Just go
out and have fun. If we win, we win; we lose, we lose.' But I
think that every time we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, we
Carried by LeBron James
for the first three quarters, the
Cavaliers still found themselves in a tight game against the
playoff-bound Celtics in the fourth.
Rivers, resting starters with the Celtics (45-36) locked into to
the third seed, went with virtually all of his youngsters in
the fourth quarter. Starters Paul Pierce
and Antoine Walker
were among those who did not see the court in the fourth for
Boston, which had 12 players play at least 11 minutes.
"It was very much like a playoff atmosphere for a lot of our
young guys," Rivers said. "They'll understand now the intensity
you have to play with. It's more physical, you have to value
the ball. I thought we didn't do all those things very well
down the stretch."
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, Rivers plans on doing the same
thing with his starters against the Nets.
"Yeah, I'm going to try to keep the minutes the exact same,"
Rivers said. "I just think it's fair. Whatever we played
tonight, I'll probably do the same tomorrow night."
Despite the youngsters, the Celtics were within 90-86 with 3:46
left following Kendrick Perkins
' three-point play. But the
Celtics went scoreless the rest of the way.
made a driving layup with 2:59 left and Robert Traylor
, who had a big game, hit a jumper and scored on a follow
shot to give the Cavaliers a 96-86 lead with 1:16 remaining.
Traylor had a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds and Snow a
season-high 12 assists for Cleveland.
"To me, it was still life and death," Traylor said. "We know
what we have to do. We hope New Jersey slips up."
"Trac played his best game of the year for us, and in
desperation time," James said. "I got a lot of help tonight."
James scored 27 of his 32 points in the first three quarters for
the Cavaliers, who shot 51 percent (40-of-79). The superstar
added eight rebounds and six assists.
"We came out with the intensity we needed for this game, and
played well," James said. "We took care of business."
With the Cavaliers having everything to play for, James got off
to a hot start as he made nine of his first 13 shots and scored 22
of his team's first 42 points.
The 6-8, 284-pound Traylor also was uncharacteristically active,
and his dunk with 5:17 left in the second triggered a 15-7 run
to close the half that helped Cleveland open a 58-47 advantage.
Rivers had his starters on the floor for much of the third
quarter and the Celtics responded, pulling within 73-68 with
3:11 left in the period on Walker's three-point play. Cleveland
held a 77-71 lead after three quarters.
Walker scored 22 points and Ricky Davis
15 for the Celtics, who
shot 43 percent (33-of-76).
"I know it sounds good to say that every game means something,
but matter of fact, it really doesn't mean anything for us,"
said Pierce, who was limited to five points.