On the third day, the Boston Celtics rose again, in fulfillment of the scriptures. And then the Cleveland Cavaliers almost re-buried them.
The Celtics opened a 22-point third-quarter lead on the backs of crowd-pleasing offense and a vintage Ray Allen shooting performance, but the Cavaliers stormed back, actually taking two separate one-point leads in the fourth period. As the wheels not only fell off but crumbled in disrepair, the Celtics somehow regained composure in time to hang on for an all-too-close 117-113 win. The Celtics had to sweat out a late Lebron James pullup three-pointer that would have put the Cavs up one with only four seconds left.
The Cleveland comeback started after two rounds of technical fouls erased every bit of momentum the Celtics had built while earning the big lead. First was a Mike Brown tirade, which resulted in two Brown technicals and his emphatic dismissal from the game. Brown appeared to have lost all self-control as he — for lack of a better term — spazzed out on an unsuspecting referee, but the technicals might have been nothing but a disguised ploy to light a fire under his sleep-walking troops. Coupled with a Rasheed Wallace technical that ended with Sheed woofing at Doc Rivers on the sideline, Brown’s energy-inducing technicals changed the course of the game and led a fierce Cavaliers comeback.
But, technical fouls aside, the comeback never would have happened without the otherworldly Lebron James (42 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists). The King proved his worth tonight, attacking the Celtics on pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll, scoring 32 second-half points as the Cavs erased the third quarter deficit and marred an otherwise perfect Easter Sunday afternoon. The stampeding comeback left the Boston Garden crowd wondering just how much of the 22-point lead was due to Boston’s play, and how much was due to Cleveland’s indifference.
Still, not even the comeback could erase how well the Celtics looked for 36 or so minutes of this game. The ball was moving, Ray Allen (33 points) was draining jumpers, and Rajon Rondo (16 points, 14 assists) was causing havoc. Everything went just as fans had envisioned the whole season playing out, and it was against the league’s finest team. It was even at home, where the Celtics should have an advantage but have instead struggled all year long. And then Lebron got going, and the game got close, and all of a sudden it wasn’t clear that the Celtics even deserved to be on the same court as the Cavs.
The win was as confusing and unsettling as an elite win can be. Celtics fans have been waiting almost all year long for a win of this caliber, but when it finally happened it was accompanied by just as much insecurity and uncertainty as any loss this season.
The Celtics stubbornly held on for the ‘W’, but still left no doubt who will be the underdog should the two teams meet in the playoffs.
- Tony Allen played 19 minutes while Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels both booked DNP-CDs. Allen pulled a couple T.A. Specials, when he fouled Lebron on a three-pointer and then goaltended a shot in the game’s waning moments. A missed three-pointer came off the rim, but Allen barely allowed it off the hoop before snatching it out of the air. The goaltending let the Cavs creep back to within one, but ultimately didn’t hurt the Celtics.
- Ray Allen’s 33 points were a season high, and he shot 6-9 from behind the arc.
- Kendrick Perkins had his first double-double since Feb. 18, with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
- Rasheed Wallace didn’t reenter the game after he followed his technical foul by barking at Doc Rivers on his way off the floor.
- Kevin Garnett finished with 19 points and 8 boards, but only shot 5-14 from the field.
- Leon Powe played 10 minutes for Cleveland, finishing with 2 points and 2 rebounds.