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5 things we learned as Cavaliers sweep Celtics in not-so-grand finale

04.26.15 at 3:55 pm ET
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Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder said the Celtics wouldn’t go down without a fight, and he was right.

Crowder was involved in two of the half-dozen ugly dust-ups with the Cavaliers, ultimately leaving the game with an apparent knee injury in the ugliest of the bunch, but in the end it didn’t matter how much muscle his team flexed. Cleveland had LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and in the end they were the difference-makers.

As they did all series, the Celtics spent the second half trying to erase a Cavs lead that had ballooned to double digits, and as was the case in their first three attempts, they fell short, losing the game 101-93 and the series 4-0.

James finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Irving added 24 points and 11 assists. Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas added 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds before fouling out. Avery Bradley (16 points) and Marcus Smart (11 points) also reached double figures.

For a complete box score, click here.


Marcus Smart’s absence from shootaround wasn’t the only late wakeup call for the Celtics. Brad Stevens spent the better part of the past week trying to solve his team’s defensive rebounding woes, and within 95 seconds of Game 4 the Cavaliers are had their second offensive board — leading to five of Cleveland’s first seven points. As a result, Stevens called his quickest timeout as an NBA coach. The intervention on the bench did little to stop the bleeding, as the Cavs reached double-digits in second-chance points and built a 21-point lead by halftime.

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Jae Crowder knocked out of game with sprained left knee after J.R. Smith fist to jaw

04.26.15 at 2:51 pm ET
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A brutally physical game for Jae Crowder ended just 96 seconds into the second half Sunday in Game 4 against the Cavaliers.

J.R. Smith swung his elbow underneath the Celtics basket, and his fist connected with Jae Crowder, knocking out Crowder temporarily. But the bigger damage came as he fell to the floor. Crowder’s lower left leg bent underneath him as he fell, suffering a game-ending sprain.

Crowder was on the floor for several minutes before being helped up and assisted to the Celtics locker room, where the team ruled him out for the rest of the game.

Unlike Kendrick Perkins, who drilled Crowder with a forearm to the jaw in the second quarter on a screen, Smith was ejected with a “Flagrant 2″ foul.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Jae Crowder, Kendrick Perkins

Kevin Love suffers left shoulder injury and out for the game after getting caught up with Kelly Olynyk

04.26.15 at 1:27 pm ET
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With 5:22 left in the first quarter, Kevin Love was entangled with Kelly Olynyk on a fight for a loose ball rebound and appeared to seriously injure his left shoulder.

He raced immediately to the Cavaliers locker room, holding his left shoulder.

The Cavaliers announced before the end of the quarter he would not return.

Olynyk was called for the personal foul.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Kelly Olynyk, Kevin Love

How sixth man Tristan Thompson continues to kill the Celtics off the bench

04.24.15 at 10:45 am ET
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Tristan Thompson (13) has been a force for the Cavaliers against the Celtics. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Tristan Thompson (13) has been a force for the Cavaliers against the Celtics. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Coming into this series, the Celtics knew they were going to have their hands full with LeBron James. They knew Kyrie Irving could score and big man Kevin Love could knock down big shots from behind the arc. They were well aware of JR Smith and his streaky ability to catch fire in spurts. All four of those players have had big moments in the first three games.

But they may have underestimated the impact of Tristan Thompson.

As a matter of fact, he may be the difference in the series so far coming off Cleveland’s bench. Thompson has controlled the offensive glass and given the Cavaliers second chance after second chance. Against a team with the aforementioned weaponry, that’s a formula for disaster.

There was no better example than in the final three minutes Thursday after Evan Turner‘s three-ball drew the Celtics to within three, 95-92, with 2:45 left. The Celtics appeared to have stopped the Cavaliers on a missed runner from Irving. But there was Thompson, the 6-foot-9 space-eater in the paint. He hauled down the rebound and quickly found Irving again, who dished to Love for an open three on the left wing. Love, who had forever to set himself, knocked it down. 98-92, with just 2:13 left.

With 51.9 seconds left and the Cavs lead just five, 98-93, James missed a jumper but there was that big man in the middle again. Thompson found LeBron, who found Love again. Three-pointer. Ball game.

Thompson had five of Cleveland’s 11 offensive rebounds Thursday in the 103-95 Game 3 win. On Tuesday, he hauled in five of his team’s 12 second chance rebounds. That’s 10 offensive rebounds in a pair of eight-point wins.
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How Brad Stevens is making life very hard on Dave Blatt and his Cavaliers

04.24.15 at 9:16 am ET
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Give the Celtics this much: They’re making the first-round series hard for the heavily-favored Cavaliers.

After Thursday’s 103-95 win over the Celtics in Game 3, putting Cleveland up 3 games to none, Cavs coach Dave Blatt acknowledged the battle he’s getting from Brad Stevens, and the leadership he needs from LeBron James.

“I all fairness, we do have players that have been in this situation, that have played these kind of games,” Blatt said. “LeBron’€™s leadership obviously a huge factor, because he’€™s the guy that not only guys follow but they feel him, they sense him and his control in these games has been outstanding both in terms of seizing the moment, but also talking guys through situations.

“Coach [Stevens] is right. I think we have showed maturity and poise in how we are playing. This was not an easy game and honestly none of the three games have been easy. Coach Stevens is doing a terrific job with his team and they are competing and playing us tough as it should be in the playoffs.

“Obviously, the job’s not done. We have to win another game. One of the reasons we’ve won these games is that we have respected our opponent, not look past even the game in front of us. Understanding that if we do, we could put ourselves in trouble. We’re going to respect our opponent and come out and compete and play the best game we can possibly play on Sunday.”

What’s been the difference so far for Blatt’s Cavaliers?

“I think our maturity and the fact obviously that we have finishers on our team, guys that know how to finish games,” Blatt said. “Both teams are playing really hard. Both teams are competing. Both teams are very capable. I just think as team we have more maturity but that doesn’t guarantee anything. We’ve got to come out and win another game before I summarize the differences. We’re still in the fight. Boston’s not going away. They haven’t up to this point and they won’t. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

It was James who accompanied JR Smith to the Garden at 9 a.m. Thursday to get a jump start on the shootaround, trying to find the winning edge. Read the rest of this entry »

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LeBron James shows love for Boston: ‘It means a lot for my legacy’

04.24.15 at 7:46 am ET
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LeBron James has had a lot of different experiences in Boston.

After pushing the Celtics to the brink of elimination Thursday night with 31 points and 11 rebounds in a 103-95 win in Game 3, basketball’s preeminent superstar reflected on what winning as a visitor means in Boston.

James was asked about what ran through his mind Thursday as he played Boston in the playoffs for the first time since 2010, when he was eliminated in the same building in Game 6 of the Eastern semifinals, his final game in a Cavaliers uniform before heading off to Miami.

“Most all of the players are different [except for] Brandon Bass being on those teams. It’s the same for me. I get great feelings, I get eerie feelings when I come into this building. I’ve been on both sides of the fence here.”

James has always been reviled by Boston fans but considers himself in some select company, joining Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant as great opposing players who found a way to win in a hostile environment.

“The great thing about being here, these fans are loyal to one thing and one thing only, and that’s green. That’s all they see. That’s all they care about. For me being a competitor and for me being a competitor, someone they know personally, to be able to come out here and perform in front of those guys, it means a lot because they know the game. They know basketball. They know sports. It’s a sports town. Between them, the Patriots, the Bruins and the Red Sox, they know sports. For me to be able to have some type of history in this city, it means a lot I guess for my legacy.”

James, of course, needs one more win for his first playoff victory in Boston. He is 0-2, losing not only in 2010 but two years earlier in the Eastern semis in an epic seven-game series that saw him outscore Paul Pierce 45-41 in Game 7 in Boston.

James, despite some early missed layups, took over the game Thursday from the start. He scored 11 in the second quarter and keyed a 12-0 run before halftime that turned a four-point hole into a 56-48 Cleveland lead at the half.

“I wanted to be aggressive, I love road games in the playoffs,” James added. “I get up for those games even more than the home games. I love the adversity that comes with it. I love going against the opposing fans, the opposing team and everything that comes with it so for me it was my approach and even though I missed some very makeable layups early, I just think my aggressiveness is starting to hit home for our team and they’€™re just following my lead after that.”

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