The Celtics’ play was everything I’d asked for over the past couple months, and then some.
Sadly, the first quarter had to end.
Boston jumped to a 31-21 lead after one, and was putting on a clinic. Rajon Rondo was the quarterback of everything, and he looked like one of the truly elite point guards in the NBA. 12 points, 6 assists, and the game was his, as if on a yo-yo. Drives to the bucket. Kick-outs to shooters. Lobs over the top for alley-oops. You name it, Rondo did it. He led Boston to perhaps its best quarter of the season, a clinic that the Original Dream Team hardly could have performed any better.
But the lead was short-lived. Boston hasn’t beaten an elite team in what seems like decades, and showed why in tonight’s 108-88 loss. When the Cavs came out of the locker room following halftime, they came with a rejuvenated pep in their step and re-dedication in their efforts. They reached a level Boston couldn’t keep up with, and suffocated Boston every second of the final 24 minutes. An eight-point Celtics lead at the half was down to one by the end of the third, and that one-point Boston lead turned into a 20-point Cleveland blowout. The wheels fell off for Boston quicker than you could say, “And another Mo Williams three.”
Lebron James was simply devastating for Cleveland, finishing with 36 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Marquis Daniels even did a good defensive job on Lebron; there just isn’t much you can do against a force of nature. A has-been force of nature, Shaq went down to a thumb injury in the first half, but his injury was perhaps beneficial to Cleveland as Anderson Varejao played absolutely inspired basketball in his absence. He ended with 14 points and 10 rebounds, but it was Varejao’s energy and constant movement that helped turn the tide in Cleveland’s favor. Boston fans probably didn’t like Varejao’s shove of Kendrick Perkins, nor his tendency to whine after every. single. call that goes against him, but Varejao’s contributions were invaluable. Doc Rivers called Marquis Daniels the NBA’s best cutter, but if Daniels isn’t it has to be Varejao. He seems to be constantly open and around the hoop. After Lebron and Varejao led the Cavs into the lead, Mo Williams took them home. He hit five threes, and each one was more back-breaking than the last.
Rondo led the way for Boston with 19 points and 11 assists, but was very quiet after his first-quarter dominance. He has ascended to become on of the top point guards in the NBA, but still doesn’t show the consistency to be THAT good, every quarter, every play. There were times tonight when Rondo looked like the best player on the floor, even sharing the parquet with Lebron James, but there were other times he seemed to be nothing but a mistake-prone rookie. Once he gets to the point where he can play at the highest level, every play, the Celtics will have an absolute superstar. For now, he’ll have to settle for a star merely coming into his own.
Ray Allen continued his hot shooting, hitting 4-8 threes and 7-13 field goals as he connected for 21 points. Kevin Garnett had his first double double since Dec. 18, notching 10 points and 10 rebounds. Nate Robinson was slightly better in his second game as a Celtic, registering 7 points and 2 steals in 16 minutes of play. Marcus Landry made his Boston debut, finishing 0-2 from the floor with 0 points.
Landry wasn’t the only player to make a debut for a new team tonight: A familiar face could be seen to end both halves for the Cavs. Leon Powe had 4 points, playing a total of 4 minutes in his first game as a Cav.
Boston missed Paul Pierce, who missed the game with a sprained thumb, especially as its offense became stagnant in the second half.