That was fun, it really was.
Two great players going at it head-to-head. Tough, physical, scrappy play.
It was everything you could ask for in a Game 7. Well, everything except for the Cavs winning, that is. But hey, it was much better than our last Game 7, right?
LeBron James scored 45 points, playing all but 1:12 in the game, and added five rebounds, two steals and – most impressively – six assists.
Most impressively because the other 11 players in the wine uniforms were fairly abysmal.
Delonte West had a nice game with 15 points, but also had six turnovers, some of them mind-scratchingly bizarre. Players not named LeBron or Delonte shot 12-of-30 for 32 points.
It would be remiss of me not to applaud the efforts of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and ol’ PJ Brown in this one as well.
You just knew Pierce was going to be electric after he hit those first jumpers in the smoke covered Garden, and he got enough help from his teammates that it made the difference in the game.
But as was the theme in the first three games in Boston, the Cavs let several opportunities slip away, proving yet again that you must essentially play flawless basketball to win on the road in the playoffs.
Two plays stood out in my mind in the third quarter, terrible turnovers from West and Sasha Pavlovic.
West tried to take on three Celtics defenders and just gave the ball away; Pavlovic tried to split a double team, which he didn’t see because HE CAN’T DRIBBLE WITH HIS HEAD UP!
(I think Shaq’s a better ball-handler in the open court than Pavlovic, I really do. He’s in the NBA but he stares at the ground when he dribbles. It’s unbelievable. Even I don’t do that.)
The first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter were played pretty well, offensively, by the Cavs.
Early in the quarter, Pavlovic missed an easy layup that had my dad and me screaming bloody murder at the TV. Other than that, the Cavs went 4-for-7 from the field and 6-for-7 from the line up to LeBron’s breakaway dunk.
The game fell to pieces from there, though. Let’s re-visit:
1. The Cavs trailed by one with about two minutes left when Pavlovic turned down a jump shot to pass to Ben Wallace under the basket. Wallace, not realizing there were no defenders between him and the basket, kicked it out to LeBron, who forced a tough three with five or six seconds on the shot clock.
2. After PJ Brown’s made jumper, the Cavs take a timeout and set up a beautiful play for West, who finds an opening after the Celtics double LeBron. Problem is, he can’t nail the open three to tie it.
3. But it’s OK, because we have a jump ball between Z and James Posey. Should be easy, right? Wrong. Z actually whiffs on his first attempt to hit the ball to LeBron, allowing Pierce to step up and take possession.
4. KG misses a jump shot that keeps the Cavs alive with 35 seconds. LeBron streaks down the court and I’m bracing for him to head straight to the rim or pull up for a three. He does neither, allowing the defense to catch up and react to him, forcing a contested shot from six feet away that has no prayer of going in.
5. OK, down five now with 18 ticks after Jesus Shuttlesworth hits his free throws. The Cavs try for a quick two, which would be a good strategy except you know the Celtics are going to foul and you know LeBron isn’t a lock at the free throw line. So instead of potentially scoring three points, you only get one out of the play, and the season is over.
Five key plays/situations, all in the last two minutes, all going against the Cavs’ favor.
This team had the reputation, going into the playoffs, that it would have the advantage in close games down the stretch. But if you look at what happened in Game 5 against the Wizards and Games 1 and 5 in this series, that just wasn’t the case.
Should I, and all Cavs fans, be disappointed that they couldn’t knock off a team that had homecourt advantage and had the best record in the regular season?
Perhaps. I hate to keep repeating myself, but this series was there for the taking, it really was.
In this game, the Cavs were out-rebounded by 10, committed 16 turnovers, missed 10 free throws…I just don’t know. Couple that with the performance from Pierce, the Celtics hitting 82 percent of their free throws (including all of them down the stretch)…it just wasn’t enough.
Random side-note: This should be a fun rivalry for the next couple of years though. The Cavs have built strong ones with the Pistons, the Wizards and the Bulls - with Larry Hughes, at least - and I'm excited to see these teams go at it these coming seasons.
Year two of the Season of Almost Dreams continues for Cleveland sports teams. 1964 is getting further and further away from us in our rear-view mirrors.