Boston leveled the Eastern Conference semifinals at 1-1 with an impressive 104-86 road win over Cleveland. Boston’s performance peaked with about 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter when they took a 91-66 lead.
A late Cleveland run tightened the game for a moment, but Boston controlled the game from the tip-off, stumbling only with lazy play late in the fourth quarter and the typical turnover issues (18 TO’s).
Though Cleveland’s rally took some of the “oomph” out of Boston’s win, the Celtics and their fans should be happy with the outcome. Boston did their job: they stole a road game and evened the series heading home to Boston. In the playoffs, wins are all that matter- 16 to be exact- and Boston put a fifth tally in the playoff win-column tonight.
Boston was led by the stellar point guard play of Rajon Rondo, who scored 13 points and added a career-high 19 assists. In the all-important third quarter, Rondo registered 7 assists- 3 or 4 on lobs to Kevin Garnett- and the Celtics pulled away with a 31-12 advantage.
Kevin Garnett was equally impressive in the third quarter, abusing the fronting defense of Antawn Jamison. Garnett finished the game with a double-double- 18 points and 10 rebounds- but played sub-par in the other three quarters, especially the fourth.
The other standout player of the night was…wait for it…Rasheed Wallace!
After being called out by Jay , and thrown under the bus by Coach Rivers, who talked about playing Shelden Williams in his place, Wallace came out firing, sinking all five of his field goals- including three three-pointers- on the way to 13 first-half points.
Ray Allen once again played sensational, also nailing three three-pointers, adding22 points and 7 rebounds.
Defensively, Boston was fantastic, allowing Cleveland to shoot only 40% from the field and limiting LeBron James to only 24 points on 15 shots. The Celtics were acutely aware of James’ presence on the floor all night, helping, trapping, and forcing James into 5 TO’s and a rare off-night.
Paul Pierce spearheaded the defensive effort against LeBron James, but delivered a poor offensive effort for the second straight game ( 4-10 FG, 14 points, 4 TO’s).
Pierce will have to be play much better at home in games 3 and 4 to give Boston their best chance of winning the series.
Game 3 in Boston will air on ESPN Friday at 7 P.M.