The game could be summarized in the final minute of the fourth quarter, if one was so inclined. Kevin Garnett, carrying the team on his back, both sides trading blows, with neither team taking a commanding lead until the final seconds, and LeBron James going cold, missing his final four shots, as the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Boston Celtics 76-72.
In an arena that was hazy from the opening fireworks, it seemed as if some the starters were lost in the fog. Celtics guard Ray Allen finished the night without a single point, despite playing 37 minutes. Forward Paul Pierce only had four, shooting a dismal 2-14 from the field. But the big surprise was LeBron, who was missing shots from all over. He only hit two of 18, both of them in the paint, and finished with 12 points. Instead, the onus fell to Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Wally Szczerbiak, both of whom played great.
Playing the low post, Ilgauskas grabbed 12 rebounds and helped keep the game with (a team high) 22 points. Wally World, scored 13, hitting some late shots that kept the Cavs in it.
Kevin Garnett dominated the game. When the other starters couldn’t get anything going, KG exploded out of the gate, hitting his first four of five shots. Coupled with another great night from Rajon Rondo, the Celtics were able to take a 10 point lead after the first quarter.
Cleveland clawed its way back into the game though, with a 22-point second quarter, thanks to a 13-3 run, but couldn’t quite take the lead. Instead, Boston went into halftime leading 41-37.
The third quarter was all Cleveland. Ilgauskas had eight points, all in the first five minutes of the half, as the Cavs took the lead. But the Celts were far from done. Down by six midway through the third, they went on an 8-1 run and tied the game to end the quarter.
The fourth opened with both teams trading both shots and the lead for the first four minutes, but Boston eventually pulled to a four-point lead on a 25-foot three by Sam Cassell. Neither team scored a basket for nearly two minutes until Cassell drained another shot, this time from 22 feet out.
Cleveland answered with a quick two baskets: a Szczerbiak three and a LeBron layup – his only basket of the second half –but still couldn’t close the gap. The Cavs would finally take the lead again late – with 90 seconds to play – on an Ilgauskas jumper, but KG and Cassell closed the door, giving the Celts a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
All in all, Garnett finished with 28 points and eight rebounds; Rondo with 15 points, six assists and 5 rebounds; Cassell with 13 points, 10 of them in the final quarter. Remember, Ray Allen and Pierce only had four points combined.
But it wasn’t just them. It was a sloppy game all around, with neither team hitting 50 per cent of their shots. Cleveland, in fact, hit just under 31 per cent of theirs. The Celtics turned the ball over 19 times, three more then the Cavs did. And neither team could hand onto a lead.
But, if anything, this game will be remembered for LeBron’s worst shooting night in recent memory and perhaps in his career.
To put all the blame for this loss on LeBron would be far from fair, but his poor shooting night was a major factor in the Cavs loss. Up until this game, he had scored at least 30 points in nine of his last ten games against the Celtics – and in that lone exception, he scored 26.
Although he only hit two baskets, he managed to contribute in other ways. He led the team in assists with nine, had nine boards in the loss and was 80% from the charity stripe.
But, just in the MVP voting, LeBron was outdone by Garnett.