Going into last nights Eastern Conference Semi-Final playoff match up between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, all eyes were on team leaders Lebron James and Paul Pierce. Which superstar would have what it takes to guide their clubs to the victory? Who would step up and silence any doubters? Which player would rally their teammates for the best of seven series that looks to be a war?
As it turns out, neither ‘The King’ nor ‘The Truth’ had those answers in Game 1’s defensive battle that finished with a 76-72 Celtic victory in front of a sold out TD Banknorth Garden crowd.
Pierce was held to 4 points on 2-14 shooting from the field while Lebron struggled as well, netting 12 points on a dismal 2-18 performance from the floor, the 2nd worst display of his NBA career. James also had a season high 10 turnovers during his 39 minutes of action in the game. A big reason for his struggles was the defensive prowess of the Celtics 6th man, James Posey.
Posey, who was acquired during the off season to provide a defensive spark off the bench, did just that in last night’s playoff victory frustrating James whenever he touched the ball.
“You just try to take certain things away from him,” Posey said, “and make him work hard for everything.”
While Posey worked hard all night on defending Lebron, Kevin Garnett picked up the slack on the offensive end of the court dropping 28 points to lead all scorers. He nailed two clutch buckets over the last 90 seconds that would tie the game at 70-70 and then put the C’s ahead for good at 74-72 with 22 seconds left to play. His effort made up for the poor numbers Pierce and Ray Allen put up during the win. Allen was held scoreless for the first time in 852 games dating back to the 1997 season and only attempted 4 shots on the night, missing them all.
“This was two heavyweights, just body-punching,” said Garnett. “There was no finesse, no jabs, just an all-out, beat-down, defensive fight.”
Zydrunas Ilgauskas paced the Cavs contributing 22 points and 12 rebounds but as a team, the Cavs just could not overcome James’s offensive struggles. On the night, Cleveland shot .307 percent from the field (23-75). In their opening round series vs. the Washington Wizards, they were averaging a .431 shooting percentage (200-464) over the six games.
The Celtics know that these numbers will not continue and that they too will have to pick up their offensive game because Lebron is bound to bounce back.
“I missed a lot of shots I know I can make,” James said, staring blankly at the box score after scoring just two points in the second half and missing his final six shots. “I missed layups. Those layups I’ve made my whole life.”
The Celtics have put the win behind them and have already begun to prepare for Game 2 on Thursday night. Once again, they will have their eyes on Lebron and hope that this time Pierce and Allen can get into the scoring mix as well.
Tickets are still available for Game 2 at the TD Banknorth Garden!