|James took lessons learned from battles with Pierce||04.04.10 at 11:58 pm ET|
The matchup between Paul Pierce and LeBron James is one of the most competitive battles in the NBA. But before James was dominating the scoreboard, he was trying to learn from his veteran counterpart.
“When I first came into the league, he was a seasoned vet and I was a rookie just trying to learn the curve and things like that,” James said prior to the Celtics 117-113 win over the Cavaliers. “Over the years, he’s still been an All-Star, he’s still been competitive. I’m just trying to develop my game to be one of the best three’s (small forwards) in the league, to be on Paul Pierce’s level and all these other guys’ level.”
On Sunday, James outscored Pierce, 42-16 (20 of his points came in the fourth quarter alone). It’s a far cry from their first regular-season matchup seven years ago. On Nov. 13, 2003, James ‘ as a rookie ‘ scored 10 points in a 91-82 loss to the Celtics. In that one, Pierce, who was entering his sixth season, led the C’s with 19 points.
‘You learn, the game itself teaches you game after game after game,” James said. ‘But you learn when you go against the best, you see why they are considered the best at that time or still now because of the work they put into it. They never took a night off.’
James is averaging 29.9 points this season (30.6 in his last five contests) and has scored more than 20 points in all but one game since the All-Star Break. He wrapped up his regular season matchup with the Celtics averaging 36.5 points in four games.
‘I’ve been able to be recognized as one of the best three’s that we have in this league,” James added, “So it’s always fun to go against the best guys in the league, and Paul continues to be that since I was a rookie.’
|First half: Celtics – Cavs||at 2:10 pm ET|
The Celtics jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the first two minutes in never trailed in the first quarter. It was Ray Allen — not LeBron James — who led all players with 10 points. James and Mo Williams were right behind him with eight points apiece for the Cavs. Both teams shot 50 percent from the field in the first quarter.
Doc Rivers turned to his bench when Rajon Rondo picked up two early fouls. First one in: Tony Allen, who is averaging 9.25 points and 3.5 rebounds in the last four games. Interesting move as this left the unit without a true point guard. That didn’t halt the Celtics, though, as they outscored the Cavs, 33-24, after the first 12 minutes.
The Celtics continued to build their lead in the second quarter. They were up, 50-40, with 3:23 left before back-to-back fouls on Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett allowed the Cavs to chip away at the deficit. They went on a 7-2 run to get back within five. But the Celtics answered with a 5-0 run of their own, propelled by Garnett and Paul Pierce. Rondo drained a 3-pointer as time expired to give the Celtics a 64-49 halftime lead.
Williams leads all players with 15 points. James has 10. Rondo and Ray Allen scored 12 each. The Celtics are 37-17 when leading or tied at the half.
|Fast Break: Celtics vs. Cavaliers||03.14.10 at 5:30 pm ET|
Winning in Cleveland was important to the Celtics, but Doc Rivers knew beating the Celtics at home would be significant to the Cavaliers, too. On Sunday, the Cavs defended their homecourt (where they are now 29-4) and defeated the Celtics, 104-93.
LeBron James scored just two field goals in the first quarter and had six points in the entire first half, but finished with a game-high 30 points.
The Big Three tried to carry the Celtics offensively — Ray Allen led with 20 points; Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce followed with 18 each. Rajon Rondo led the C’s with eight boards, but the team was outrebounded 51-43.
Turning Point: The Celtics had an opportunity to reclaim control of this game in the third quarter. Allen and Pierce tied the game at 68 apiece with back-to-back 3-pointers. But Garnett and Rondo committed a pair of turnovers in 24 seconds and the Cavs went on an 8-0 run.
Player of the Game: After Saturday’s practice, Kendrick Perkins said Anderson Varejao was an instigator on the court, and he proved to be on Sunday. Varejao scored 15 points and grabbed 6 rebounds off the bench in the first half alone. His tough play early on set the tone for the Cavaliers.
– Garnett and Glen Davis were both involved in rough play during the game. Early in the first, Garnett and J.J. Hickson were called for technical fouls after exchanging words under the basket. In the third, Garnett went for the ball and ended up hitting James in the face. James fell to the ground and had to go to the bench during a subsequent timeout. As for Davis, he practically leapt at Antawn Jamison and knocked him to the floor while attempting a 3-pointer.
– One of the reasons why the Celtics were able to stay in the game was because of free throw shooting. They shot 23-for-30 from the line while the Cavs were 31-for-48.
– The Celtics shot 0-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half, but went 6-for-11 in the second. Allen and Pierce hit three apiece.
– Former Celtic Leon Powe scored six points and grabbed four rebounds in eight minutes for the Cavs.
|Third Quarter Wrap: Celtics vs. Cavaliers||at 4:39 pm ET|
Early in the third, Kevin Garnett went for the ball and hit LeBron James in the face. James fell to the ground and went to the bench for a timeout. He returned to the game and scored 11 points in the quarter.
Even though they trail, the Celtics did even things up in the quarter. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 68 apiece. But they committed two consecutive turnovers and the Cavs quickly went back up by six.
Garnett and Glen Davis both picked up their fourth fouls. The Celtics, however, have a strong advantage at the line. They are shooting 20-for-23 from the line while the Cavs are 19-for-30.
|Second Quarter Wrap: Celtics vs. Cavaliers||at 3:50 pm ET|
Glen Davis committed another tough foul against the Cavaliers. He practically leapt at Antawn Jamison and knocked him to the ground while shooting a 3-pointer. He picked up three fouls in the first half.
The Celtics are 0-for-6 from behind the arc while the Cavs are 5-for-12.
|Perkins: Cavs better without Shaq||03.13.10 at 3:37 pm ET|
There is no denying that Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most challenging big men to go up against in the NBA. But in the case of the Cavaliers, Kendrick Perkins thinks they are better suited without him.
The Cavaliers are 6-1 since O’Neal suffered a sprained thumb on February 25 against the Celtics. While it should be noted that wins during that stretch came against the sub-.500 Knicks, Nets, Pistons, and 76ers, Perkins believes that the Cavaliers have more options and speed without O’Neal.
‘In my opinion, I think they’re better,’ he said after practice on Saturday. ‘They can run more, you’ve got Anderson Varejao who’s more of an active body, he gets LeBron open a lot, opens up the paint for him, so I think they’re a better team. I mean obviously Shaq could help them, but I think they’re a better, more fast-paced team.’
Even without O’Neal on the court, Perkins will still have hands full in the paint. Anderson Varejao isn’t as big as O’Neal, but he causes problems for opponents in his own way.
‘You’ve just got to take him out of the game,’ said Perkins. ‘I think you’ve got to, all the time he’s more of the instigator. I think you’ve got to be more of the instigator when you’re playing against him. You’ve got to hit him first. He’s a guy who flops, gets a lot of calls, takes charges, offensive rebounds, so I think you’ve just got to keep a body on him and play against him hard.’
Varejao is averaging 11.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two games against the Celtics this season, compared to 8.0 points and 6.0 rebounds from O’Neal.
|Cavs measuring stick for Celtics?||at 3:18 pm ET|
Over the years, the Celtics have served as a measuring stick for their opponents. A win over the Big Three and Company has signified to many that they have what it takes to run with the best.
“The Celtics get the best game out of everybody they play,” Jamal Crawford said following a Hawks win over the C’s in January. “They are one of the best teams in the NBA and it’s a good measuring stick.”
‘I guess it just proves that we should have high expectations and we should continue to work hard and if we play hard ‘ I think that’s the biggest thing,’ Steve Nash said after the Suns dealt the Celtics their first loss of the season.
But the Celtics are no longer at the top of the East. On Saturday, they were nine games behind the Cavaliers for first in the conference. That makes Sunday’s game in Cleveland that much more meaningful. A win on the Cavs home court, where the Cavs are 28-4, would be significant to the Celtics.
‘I’m looking forward to the game, seeing exactly where we’re at, just going out there and competing,’ said Kendrick Perkins after practice on Saturday. ‘They’re a great team, they’re at home, best in the NBA, just seeing where we’re at. I think it would be a great confidence boost for us if we could go in their home building and get a win.”
Perkins is quick to point out, however, that while a victory in Cleveland would help their confidence, the Celtics are not measurng their success against that of the Cavs. He says that using a game against the Cavs to assess the Celtics performance is like role reversal “in a way,” but the Cavaliers still have a lot to prove too.
“They still haven’t won anything, they’re just the best team in the league,’ he said. ‘They still haven’t done anything we haven’t done, so right now they’re just the best team in the league and we’ve got to go at them.’
The Celtics will play the Cavs at 3:30 on Sunday. The season series is tied 1-1.
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Why Celtics Will Be Better Than Expected in 2014-15
- Should Celtics Fans Buy or Sell Rondo's Hot Start?
- Lessons Learned from Celtics so Far
- Why Green Will Finally Succeed in Boston
- C's Big Offense Showing a Sign of Things to Come?
- Green's Transition to PF Could Reshape NBA Career Arc
- Could Rondo's Play Increase the Chances He's Dealt?