Overview: The Celtics destroyed the Cavaliers in the third quarter of game two, outscoring them 31-12 in the period en route to a 104-86 victory. Rajon Rondo tied a franchise playoff record with 19 assists, and six Celtics scored in double figures.
Call it what it was: an ass-kicking. The Celtics got their first lead when they scored their first basket, and never trailed by more than a point. They put pressure on the Cavs all game long — in the third quarter, the Cavs cracked.
Let’s take a look at what happened:
I actually liked what was going on in the first quarter. The Cavs attacked the basket on every possession, and were doing a good job of collapsing on Rondo and making the Celtics get their points from outside. The problem was that the Cavs were missing easy shots while the Celtics were making their jumpers. LeBron missed a layup, Shaq missed a hook, and Mo missed some open threes.
When the Celtics had the ball, they couldn’t miss from outside. They went 7 of 9 on shots outside the paint in the first quarter, including two jumpers apiece from Rasheed Wallace and Rajon Rondo. Whenever the Cavs looked like they were going to take the lead, the Celtics answered with a jumper. Boston ended the quarter with a Rajon Rondo three off the dribble to push their lead to four. It was that kind of a start for them.
The Celtics pushed the lead to double-digits thanks to nine consecutive points from Wallace, Glen Davis, and Tony Allen to start the second. The Cavs kept the game close, but the Celtics kept making enough shots and getting enough easy baskets to keep the Cavs at bay. To be frank, the Celtics were the ones keeping the Cavs in the game at that point — turnovers and silly fouls by Boston hurt them more than anything Cleveland was doing at either end.
Total and complete meltdown in the third quarter. That’s the only way to describe it. The Celtics got three layups from Antawn Jamison’s unsuccessful attempts to front KG in the post. When it wasn’t a layup, it was an open three or a contested Ray Allen jumper, which is like an open shot for most players.
The Celtics were scoring at will, and the Cavs were unraveling. Too many quick jumpers and bad possessions. Andy picked up a T and a flagrant foul out of frustration. When LeBron tried to take it over and go strong, the Celtics started to swarm him and force turnovers. When the dust settled, the Celtics were up 23 and you could hear a pin drop in the Q.
The Cavs were able to generate some hope when the Celtics went into a prevent offense and got a 15-0 run going. It was too little, too late. With 1:14 left, the scrubs were in and the Cavs had officially been blown out at home. The road to the Eastern Conference Finals now goes through Boston. The last time the Cavs won a road playoff game against an elite team was game five against Detroit. That took two overtimes and LeBron scoring 29 of the Cavs’ final 30 points. Wonderful.
-Enough with the elbow. Screw the elbow. First of all, the Cavs weren’t winning this game if LeBron had three healthy elbows. Second of all, LeBron is 48 hours removed from taking over a game. Third of all, LeBron didn’t play like he was hurt. He played like he didn’t have control of the game.
He was waiting for his teammates to get involved early, and tried to get the team back in it in the second. After the Celtics made their run in the third, it was too late. LeBron going to the basket is like a 100-mph fastball. It’s great early in the count. If the batter is thinking about the curveball or the changeup, there’s no way he’s going to catch up to it. You almost always go to the fastball on a 3-2 count. But no matter how good a fastball is, it’s going to end up in the bleachers if it’s a 2-0 or 3-1 count and the batter is sitting on it. That’s what happened in this game.
The Celtics put the Cavs in a position where LeBron going 1-on-5 was the only option. When LeBron tried it, they pounced. When LeBron is on, he controls the flow of the game and makes the defense guess what he’s going to do. With Rondo controlling the flow of the game, LeBron wasn’t able to do his thing. He needs to come out early and take matters into his own hands in game three. It’s as simple as that.
-Shaq sucked. He’s getting position on those hooks and they’re not falling. He’s not exactly making up for it on the defensive end, either. He looks like he did at the beginning of the season. If he can’t score when they single-cover him in the post, he shouldn’t be on the floor. -18 in 19 minutes for Shaq tonight. Right now, Shaq’s thumb is the much more significant injury than LeBron’s elbow.
-Mo was horrible. 1-9 from the field is not going to cut it, and he’s yet to hit a three in this series. Part of it is that the Cavs aren’t running their offense to set him up with open threes, but he needs to figure out a way to be effective without going off for 12 straight points after a dunk.
-Jamison was the second-best Cav on offense. He hit some threes and floaters on offense, and never looked out of his element. His defense was an issue, but I’ll take it over what Shaq, Mo, and Parker are giving you. When the second-best starter is someone the Cavs got for a draft pick a few months ago, there are issues present.
-Hickson and Varejao were the silver linings. Hickson continues to make crazy and-1s, and Varejao looked like himself. Andy was making cuts to the basket and getting layups and fouls; he played 21 minutes and was the only Cavalier to finish with a positive +/-. Of course, he committed a stupid flagrant, left the game with back spasms, and started to have a tantrum in the third quarter. That wasn’t controlled frenzy and playing the mental game; that was being a sore loser. I’ll take my victories where I can get them tonight.
-The Cavs shot 20 more free throws than the Celtics and made 11 more free throws than the Celtics. Splendid.
-How predictable was Delonte going hard to the basket with 1:39 remaining in a 16-point game? He never stops working out there. Also, that was his only basket in 31 minutes. I love his attitude, but would like to see him play better basketball.
Bullets of Randomness:
-I thought the Cavs did a much better job on Rondo in game two. He finished with 13 points and 19 assists. I, for one, do not welcome our new mutant point guard overlords.
-Pierce still can’t score on LeBron in isolation. Hooray?
-Seriously Rasheed, how were you not full of crap when you said you were saving it for the playoffs? Where the HELL did that come from?
-Man, Ray Allen is a great offensive player.
So here we are. Cavs have to win in Boston to keep the series alive. The Cavs can win in Boston; Boston isn’t a juggernaut at home, and the Cavs are better equipped to win on the road than they used to be. Still, this does not feel good. The Celtics still have to beat the Cavs three more times to win this series. The Cavs have a good chance to win every game remaining in the series. Time to get it done. Recent iterations of the Cavs haven’t won a big playoff game on the road in a long time. The Cavaliers have never won a championship. If they want one, they’re going to have to do some things they haven’t done before. It’s going to be a long couple of days, but this thing is far from over. Time to get it done.