LeBron James’ recorded a triple-double–27 points, 19 rebounds, 10 assists– but it was his 8-21 FG’s and 9 turnovers that sent the Boston Celtics on to the Eastern Conference Finals, with a 94-85 victory.
Once again, Kevin Garnett- 22 points, 12 rebounds– and Rajon Rondo– 21 points, 12 assists, 5 steals– led the Celtics attack. Defensively, Cleveland just couldn’t match up with Garnett or the Rondo-Garnett pick-and-roll offense. When Shaq guarded Garnett, KG popped out for the mid-range jumpshot, while Rondo attacked the hoop; when Jamison guarded Garnett, he posted up Jamison and shot over him all night.
Paul Pierce (4-13 FG’s) and Ray Allen (2-8 FG’s) struggled with their shot, but Paul Pierce hit a big fourth quarter threes and the great play off the bench of Tony Allen and Rasheed Wallace made up for their poor shooting. Tony Allen scored 10 first half points while Pierce and Rondo sat with 3 fouls apiece, punctuated by a tomahawk, cock-back dunk over Antawn Jamison. Rasheed Wallace picked up three first half fouls, but scored 13 second half points, including two important three-pointers that kept the Celtics lead at a comfortable margin.
Mo Williams kept Cleveland alive with a spectacular first half, in which he scored 20 points, but he came back to earth, scoring only two points in the second half. Unlike Game 5, LeBron’s effort tonight was unquestioned, but Boston suffocated him defensively and his teammates–or his outside jump shot– could not provide enough assistance.
LeBron now becomes a free-agent, and Boston fans were all too happy to remind him. With LeBron on the free-throw line, and the game winding down, and perhaps LeBron’s tenure as a Cavalier winding down as well, chants of, “New York Knicks! New York Knicks!” filled the Garden. The creative chant, referring to LeBron’s most likely destination as a free-agent, was led by ESPN.com writer Bil Simmons, who created a special twitter account just for the occasion.
Boston moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals to face the Orlando Magic, who defeated the KG-less Celtics in 7 games in last year’s playoffs. This year’s rematch begins Sunday afternoon on ABC at 3:30 ET.