Cavaliers-Celtics: Who Wants a Road Win?

Scott MilesSenior Analyst IMay 11, 2008

There is an interesting phenomenon in sports that is shining clearly in the NBA playoffs.

It’s called “Playing like absolute garbage on the road.”

I don’t know where or how this phenomenon started, but it has a grip on nearly every team — none more so than the Boston Celtics.

(As a Cavs fan, I certainly have no complaints about that.)

In two games at Boston, the Cavs averaged about 58 points per game on 10 percent shooting from the floor and looked as lost offensively as an American League relief pitcher trying to swing a bat.

Then, playing at home, the Cavs jumped to a big lead early and were never seriously threatened, scoring 108 points, shooting 54 percent from the field and hitting 10-of-19 three-pointers.

Meanwhile, the Celtics muddled their way through the first quarter and dug themselves a hole so deep they were halfway to China.

That’s what I don’t understand. Isn’t the game the same regardless of where you play? The court is the same length, the rim is the same height, the rules are the same, the concept of the game is the same.

Who cares if you have 20,000 fans screaming for or against you? They’re still screaming, they’re still loud.

In this second round, road teams only have one win. Detroit squeaked one out last night in Orlando that they probably shouldn’t have. I just don’t get how a team can look and play radically different from how it did 48 hours earlier just because the venue changed.

If you can’t get fired up to play — on the road or at home — during the NBA playoffs, then you probably shouldn’t be out there. Just my two cents on that.

Obviously, the key to the Cavs’ win last night was the opening quarter, and then the first few minutes of the second period as well. I knew the Cavs were in good shape when, early on, Ben Wallace had as many points (six) as the Celtics had as a team.

Big Ben was all over the court, and if he plays like that the rest of the series — or the rest of the postseason — this Cavs team will be very difficult to beat.

The fact that the Cavs didn’t choke away their big first quarter lead was critical as well. Boston had a huge second quarter in Game Two; that didn’t happen last night.

Finally, the biggest help to the Cavs defense yesterday was the presence of Rajon Rondo on the court. Thankfully, he has the shooting range of Eric Snow, allowing Delonte West to play free safety and help on everyone else.

Every time Rondo tried to go to the basket, he was swallowed up by Z, Wallace and — most posterizably, if that’s a word — LeBron. Definitely expect to see more of Sam Cassell in Game Four.

And what about Ray Allen? Did he get really old, really fast or what? He’s averaging just 14 points per game and shooting under 40 percent in the playoffs. He’s had one good quarter against the Cavs in the three games. And with Paul Pierce scuffling offensively as well, this Celtics team has become vulnerable.

LeBron was in “benevolent” mode early on in this game, and thankfully his teammates responded. Wally’s World was huge in the first quarter, Delonte West was huge the whole game, Joe Smith was near-perfect, Z played like Z, Ben almost scored 10 points…what an absolute team effort.

It was a refreshing performance from the Cavs, and one they’ll need to repeat three more times against Boston.