Cavs and Rookie LeBron Nip C's


Some call LeBron James, King James. Last night, it took all the king's men for the Cavaliers to defeat the Celtics, 98-96. James worked his magic with assists, not points, at the FleetCenter, finding teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas for the winning 16-footer with 19.6 seconds left.   Paul Pierce (25 points, 4 turnovers) came up short on an 11-footer in the waning seconds. And a desperation toss from the left baseline by Gary Payton was off the mark and after the buzzer. But in truth, Boston lost this game long before any attempts at late-game heroics because of turnovers down the stretch.

Struggling to make shots, Cleveland tied it at 94 on a pair of Jeff McInnis free throws. Once again, the Celtics were asked to show some mental toughness down the stretch as they tried to snap a two-game losing streak. But with 49.4 seconds left, James (20 points, 8 assists) scored on a driving layup to give the Cavaliers their first lead since the third quarter. Payton (14 points, 10 assists) returned the favor on the other end and the game stood tied, 96-96, with 31.3 seconds remaining.

The Celtics' second unit did something during the third quarter that it hasn't been able to do all season: build a lead. With Walter McCarty, Delonte West, Ricky Davis, Tony Allen, and Al Jefferson on the floor, Boston surged ahead, 81-75, entering the final quarter. The same group started the fourth and did not disappoint when a Davis steal led to a fast-break dunk by West to stretch the Boston lead.

With 2:11 left in the third, a pair of free throws from McCarty gave Boston its first lead and sparked a 7-0 run to close the third. Pierce hit a pair of foul shots before being replaced by Allen, then Davis found West for a 13-footer. Next, Allen blocked a shot by Ira Newble, which wound up putting West on the line for a free throw.

But a few minutes into the fourth, the second-unit magic wore off and coach Doc Rivers went back to his starters as the Celtics' lead dwindled. Cleveland closed within a point on a couple of occasions, but missed shots and turnovers kept the visitors from taking the lead. Boston clung to a slim lead thanks to midrange jumpers from Pierce, Mark Blount, and Davis, and a free throw from Payton. Still, it remained a one-possession game, 94-91, in favor of Boston, with two minutes to play. An Ilgauskas free throw made it a 2-point game with 1:50 to play. It would not stay that way for long.

King James may be ruler of all he surveys in the NBA, but during the first half teammates Drew Gooden and Ilgauskas dominated the action. The Cavaliers took a 53-48 lead into halftime with Gooden and Ilgauskas combining for 36 points. But they could not have done it without help from James, who was credited with six assists in the first half and kept the ball moving effectively for an offense that shot 59 percent.

With 4:35 left in the second, James found Ilgauskas for a 20-footer that pushed the Cavaliers ahead, 42-33, equaling the visitors' largest lead. But behind 6 straight points from Jiri Welsch, Boston cut its deficit to 42-39 less than two minutes later. Then James hit Gooden for a reverse layup capping a mini-run that gave Cleveland a 49-41 lead. The Celtics never led during the first half, spending much of the second quarter trying keep the deficit manageable.

It proved a difficult task for Boston, which shot 40 percent and struggled to move the ball as effectively as Cleveland. The Cavaliers finished the half with 14 assists, double the Celtics' total.

The Celtics did maintain a high level of effort throughout the first half. They simply looked overmatched by the Cavaliers, who are playing some of the best basketball in the NBA these days. James entered the game coming off a career-high 43 points, though his scoring abilities did not highlight the first half. That would come later.

At the end of the first, a 20-footer by Ilgauskas followed by an 18-footer from Gooden gave the Cavaliers a 9-point lead. Pierce cut it to 27-20 with a 15-footer.

1 comment:

Lex said...

Sorry gang.

I omitted a few articles.

Getting caught up

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