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Fast Break: Celtics-Cavs

05.13.10 at 11:09 pm ET
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The Boston Celtics have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. And LeBron James and the Cavaliers are heading home.

Rajon Rondo scored 21 points with 12 assists and Kevin Garnett added 22 points to lead Boston scorers as the Celtics defeated the Cavs by a final score of 94–85 in Game 6 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal Series.

The Celtics win the series 4-2, the second time in the last three seasons that they have sent James and the Cavs packing.

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals will be Sunday at Orlando.

A 10-0 fourth-quarter run by the Celtics was punctuated by a Garnett dunk to give Boston an 88-74 lead with 5:50 left. The Cavaliers made a few small runs, but could never get closer than four points.

James, playing what could be his last game with the Cavs, was sloppy  but extraordinarily active, finishing with 27 points (on 8-of-21 shooting) 19 rebounds, 10 assists and nine turnovers. Mo Williams scored 22 points, but only had two points in the second half.

The Cavs shot only 38.4 percent from the floor in the game and finished with 22 turnovers.

Paul Pierce struggled in the first half (two points) but had 11 second-half points, including three three-point field goals. Tony Allen (10 points, strong defense on James) and Rasheed Wallace (13 points) played well off the bench.

The Celtics led by a score of 51-49 at halftime.

Rondo topped the Celtics with 12 points in the half.

Mo Williams, who had struggled since a big Game 1, was the story for the Cavs in the first half, pacing all players with 20 points. James took 12 shots (just two fewer than Game 5), but made just four. He finished the first half with 12 points, six boards, five assists and four turnovers.

The Celtics had a three-point edge (25-22) after the first quarter. The lead was as large as nine (20-11), but the Celtics made just one field goal in the final 5:11. The Celts shot 55.6 percent in the quarter, led by Garnett, who made all four field-goal attempts to lead all Celtics with eight points. Rondo had five points and four assists, but also turned the ball over four times. The Celtics had six turnovers in the opening quarter, leading to seven Cavs points. That kept the game close as the Cavs shot just 40 percent from the floor.

For the Cavs, Williams led all players with 10 points and James had nine points (on 3-of-8 shooting,) five rebounds, two assists, two steals and three turnovers. That was the story all game for James as he could never find his rhythm.

The third quarter was the game’s most physical, with the Celtics emerging with a 76-67 lead. Plenty of hard fouls and pushing and shoving. Garnett and Pierce each had eight points in the quarter.

Halftime Wrap: Celtics-Cavs

05.13.10 at 9:25 pm ET
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The Celtics lead the Cavaliers by a score of 51-49 at halftime of Game 6.

Rajon Rondo topped the Celtics with 12 points. He also has seven assists and three steals. But the big story of the first half? Foul trouble for the Celtics. Rondo, along with Paul Pierce, has three fouls. Tony Allen came off the bench to score 10 points and Kevin Garnett also chipped in with 10 on five-of-six shooting.

Mo Williams, who has struggled since a big Game 1, was the story for the Cavs in the first half, pacing all players with 20 points. LeBron James took 12 shots (just two fewer than Game 5), but made just four. He finished the first half with 12 points, six boards, five assists and four turnovers.

The Celtics led by three points (25-22) after the first quarter. The lead was as large as nine points (20-11), but the Celtics made just one field goal in the final 5:11. Despite the cold stretch, the Celts shot 55.6 percent in the quarter, led by Garnett, who made all four field-goal attempts to lead all Celtics with eight points. Rondo had five points and four assists, but also turned the ball over four times. The Celtics had six turnovers in the opening quarter, leading to seven Cavs points. That kept the game close as the Cavs shot just 40 percent from the floor.

For the Cavs, Williams led all players with 10 points and James had nine points (on 3-of-8 shooting,) five rebounds, two assists, two steals and three turnovers. A sloppy first quarter from James, but unlike Game 5 he was anything but passive.

No Magic lessons in last year

05.13.10 at 8:43 pm ET
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Last year, the Celtics were in the same round with the same advantage.

They were up, 3-2, having two chances to get one win and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics blew a double-digit lead in Game 6 before getting blown out in the second half of Game 7 at home against Orlando.

Fast forward 12 months, and these Celtics entered Game 6 Thursday with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a win over LeBron and the Cavaliers. Any lesson to be learned?

“No, different team,” Rivers answered before Thursday’s contest. “We’re playing a different team. Orlando outplayed us so all we learned there is you have to play better. You have to try to seize the moment when you have the home court but at the end of the day, you have to perform.

“If Cleveland comes out and makes more shots and does their game plan better than ours, we won’t win. If we do ours, we’ll win. Last year won’t help you.”

And Rivers was totally in agreement with Kevin Garnett’s sentiments following the Game 5 blowout win in Cleveland. The Celtics want no part of Game 7 in Cleveland and look at Game 6 as a must win.

“We are, we are,” Rivers said. “We’ve won in Cleveland twice. We don’t want to press our luck. We have to view it the same way they are. It’s a big game for both teams.”

Rivers – an Orlando resident – knows the Magic await the winner and responded with humor when asked what he thought Orlando was thinking watching this series.

“Orlando is a terrific city and so, yes, it’s warm, it’s 80 degrees most likely,” Rivers said tongue-in-cheek. “They’re having a ball. They love it.”

Then he took a more serious approach, pointing out the Magic have earned their rest this round after sweeping through eight playoff games so far.

“They want it to go eight, if it can,” Rivers said of Orlando’s preference in watching the Celtics and Cavs. “There’s no doubt about it. If we were in the position they are in, they would want the same thing. They’ve earned it. They did it quick. They’ve only played eight games when you think about it. That’s pretty remarkable.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Doc Rivers, LeBron

Ainge on The Big Show: Both teams ‘desperate’

05.13.10 at 7:48 pm ET
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Celtics president Danny Ainge joined The Big Show Thursday evening to talk about Boston’€™s success against Cleveland and the importance of closing out the series in Game 6 at TD Garden.

‘€œBoth teams are very desperate to win this game tonight, for obvious reasons,’€ Ainge said. ‘€œI think that’€™s why it will be a good game.’€

Ainge also touched on the amount of criticism LeBron James received after the Cavaliers‘ lopsided loss in Game 5.

Below is a transcript. Visit The Big Show audio on demand page to hear the interview.

It’€™s been a bizarre series, do you have any idea what to expect tonight?

I have no idea. I would be shocked if it was going to be any sort of blowout like we’€™ve had in a couple of games in the series. I expect both teams to be ready, they know what they’€™re doing, they kind of know the strengths and weaknesses, and I’€™d be shocked if it wasn’€™t a close game.

Kevin Garnett spoke about the sense of urgency after the last game about treating this is as a Game 7 and not as a Game 6. Do you like that approach?

Yeah, I think so. Both teams are very desperate to win this game tonight, for obvious reasons. I think that’€™s why it will be a good game.

You guys have really played great defense from the initial point of attack.

I think the identity of this team is defense. I think we’€™ve gotten back to that in the playoffs. We’€™ve had a few bad spells, we let our guard down in Game 3 of course, but overall our defense has really stepped up, improved, and I think the effort each possession is better than the regular season. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett

Celts ready for the unexpected

05.13.10 at 7:31 pm ET
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The talk this morning was of the Cleveland Cavaliers possibly making some kind of a lineup switch for Game 6. Cavs coach Mike Brown has been searching for the right combination of players since the series started and it’s fair to say after five games that he still has not settled on a set rotation.

Brown has already strayed from the early-series script by playing Zydrunas Ilgauskus ahead of J.J. Hickson in Game 5 and Daniel Gibson, who hasn’t played at all.

“When Gibson came in, when Ilgauskus came in, everyone’s antenna did go up a little bit because we knew what those guys do,” Ray Allen said before Game 6. “Those guys are good offensive players so everyone was on alert. For us, we know each other. [It’s] not as much of a surprise as it is when you see a guy go in, you adjust.”

The Celtics rolled with the adjustments just fine in Game 5 and part of that is that they are so set in their ways. The other part of that is preparation.

“We have to prepare for everything; big lineup, small lineup,” Doc Rivers said. “Fortunately or unfortunately for them, they have the ability to do a lot of different things because of their personnel. We can’t. We are who we are and we’re not going to change, and in some ways that makes it easier.”

Still, Rivers doesn’t think that the Cavs will change all that drastically in Game 6.

“They’re a solid basketball team,” he said. “They’re not going to change a lot. We wouldn’t be shocked to see Varejao maybe in the starting lineup or them going with size early. But they didn’t get this record by doing a lot of changing.”

Read More: Cavaliers, Ray Allen,

Lineup changes coming for Cavs?

05.13.10 at 2:04 pm ET
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Reports out of the Cavaliers shootaround this morning indicate that Mike Brown is considering lineup changes for Game 6 tonight at the Garden. Plain Dealer beat writer Brian Windhorst noted that Brown is unlikely to change his starting five, but he brings up the one radical move that Brown has left: playing LeBron James at point guard.

The Cavs lineup would look like this: James at the point, Anthony Parker at off-guard and Antawn Jamison at small forward. The big men would be some cobination of J.J. Hickson, Anderson Varejao and Shaquille O’Neal, but probably the former to try to speed up play.

That would do a number of things: First, It would take Jamison away from Kevin Garnett where he is getting worked in the post and it would also remove Mo Williams out of the equation where he is getting worked against everyone. It would also set up James to match up directly with Rajon Rondo.

Brown tried a number of personnel adjustments in Game 5 including playing Zydrunas Ilgauskus ahead of Hickson, and calling on Daniel Gibson who hasn’t been in his rotation since March. Ilgauskus actually played well, but the moves had a feel of desperation about them.

This might be a desperate move, but it’s not necessarily a panic move. Taking Williams out of the lineup is addition by subtraction at this point and James has been successful guarding Rondo in small doses.

On the other hand, it could also open up Paul Pierce. The Celtics are going to keep pounding the ball to Garnett on the post regardless of who’s guarding him and there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t keep attacking Jamison in whatever matchup he finds himself.

The Celtics have been able to come up with effective counters for whatever the Cavs have thrown at them and it would be surprising if they haven’t planned for this scenario as well.

Read More: Antawn Jamison, Cavaliers, LeBron James, Mo Williams

Bill Simmons on D&C: Doc’s ‘best series ever’

05.13.10 at 10:49 am ET
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ESPN columnist Bill Simmons joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about the Celtics‘ impressive performance in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Cavaliers. To hear the interview, check out the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Said Simmons: “The last two games, I feel like they’ve finally looked like the team that they looked like before that Christmas Day 2008 game against the Lakers, when [their record] was 27-2. Then they lose that game, they go on a little skid, [Kevin] Garnett gets hurt, the team’s never really been the same. You look at this whole series, they’ve played better in four of the five games. And they’ve dominated two of them.”

Simmons said Rajon Rondo’s ability to dominate and LeBron James‘ failure to do the same is the obvious key. “It always come down to who has the best guy in a series, I always think. … The bottom line is Rondo’s played better than LeBron in this series. [Rondo’s] stats weren’t good in the first half of Game 5 — I didn’t feel like he was having a bad game, but in the second half I thought he dominated that game. He controlled the flow. He controls every aspect of that game. They can’t match up with him. They’re changing their defense to try to get him. He’s in Mo Williams‘ head. Mo Williams is a basket case. Now LeBron’s probably going to have to defend him.”

Simmons also pointed to an unheralded bench player who has made a big difference for Boston. “The shocker of all shockers is Tony Allen,” Simmons said. “Because this is a guy we’ve watched for six years. It actually started in the Miami series. He had a really good Game 1. I thought he helped them win Game 2. He and Rasheed [Wallace] were the things that kind of swing that game. Everyone was talking about Rondo in Game 4, and rightfully so, but Tony Allen — that was the best game of his career. He’s actually making layups, he’s finishing, he’s not doing stupid things.”

On the other side of the court, Anderson Varejao’s disappearing act is leading to rumors that the forward is hiding an injury. “I think he’s injured. It’s just really weird how he’s been playing,” Simmons said. “He only played 17 minutes in Game 5. And this is a guy who kills the Celtics, He’s just such a bad matchup. And also when Cleveland plays well, he’s playing 35-40 minutes a game. I think he’s the second-most important guy. For what he’s doing in this series and the minutes he’s getting, I think that’s one of the reasons the Celtics have a 3-2 lead.”

Simmons questioned the performance of Cavs coach Mike Brown, saying, “When coaches are grasping for straws, you can see it.” Then he heaped praise on Doc Rivers, a coach Simmons frequently has crititicized. “I think this has been his best series ever,” Simmons said. “I just think he’s had a command of the series. The timeouts — he’s called great timeouts, which he never used to do. You can feel Cleveland coming on, and he’s been stopping the runs, which is nice.”

The winner of the Celtics-Cavaliers series gets the red-hot Magic, but Simmons said that would be an appealing matchup for the C’s. “The way they match up with Orlando, if they can somehow get by this Cleveland team for one more game, they match up fantastic with Orlando,” Simmons said. “They have guys to throw at Dwight Howard. Rondo can beat Jameer Nelson. Vince Carter, who’s been dribbling through the lane with impunity, they’ll just knock his butt down. He’s not going to be able to do that stuff against the Celtics. I think they match up so much better against Orlando than they do against Cleveland.”

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