Cavs 114, Celtics 113 --Ever since that spat with the Paul Pierce spit in that preseason game in 2004, LeBron seems to take games against the Celtics personally. This is the ninth straight time he's scored more than 30 points against them and you could just tell he's been thinking about it for days. When I talked to him about his ankle after the Seattle game he told me all he cared about was getting back to play Boston. He also doesn't like how the new Celtics run their mouth so much and put them in the Pistons category. He's what he said:
"The Celtics and Pistons, they both can get fly with the mouth. It's in a competitive way, but sometimes it can get annoying. That's not what I do, that is not what our team is about. You go out there and win ballgames and you can do what you want to."
--No one could've expected this to be such a high-scoring game, it is not the way either team wants to play. Nonetheless, it was an exciting game with 28 lead changes and 23 ties. I maintain this would be a great playoff series. --You have to give the Cavs credit for the different ways they are winning and with the different lineups. As along as LeBron is playing, of course. For as well as the supporting cast played tonight, it was -11 when LeBron was on the bench. --Drew Gooden tweaked his right groin muscle. He is prone to pulling upper leg muscles, this is the third straight season he's had an adductor or groin injury. Usually it causes him to miss a game or two but he said to me after the game he was hoping to play Thursday. --Not having Garnett seemed to affect the Celtics rebounding more than anything else. They certainly got plenty of offense without him and got into the paint a lot. But the Cavs won the rebounding battle, 39-29 and had 17 offensive rebounds. --If the Cavs were to play these guys in the playoffs they would really have to work on a better way to deal with Rondo. When he plays well it seems like he can really unlock the Cavs' defense. Then again, having Anderson Varejao (which they have not had against Boston yet this year) makes a difference on how they can play the pick-and-roll. --I hope all the Zydrunas Ilgauskas haters are paying attention to how well he's played over the last month. He had another double-double tonight even though his shot was off. There are a lot of people that complain about Larry Hughes, who is also playing well, not living up to his contract. Well, Ilgauskas is earning his $10 million and re-signing him when he took a $6 million pay cut in 2005 was a very smart move. There may be some regret about giving him a fifth year, but that was the tradeoff to getting him to take the reduction in pay. I've said it before and I will keep saying it, someday No. 11 will be in the rafters. Tonight he passed one of the men up there, Larry Nance, in career blocks. --By the way, LeBron plead no contest to driving 101 miles an hour in court today and was fined $259. Tonight his game check was worth $118,500.00.
Pregame Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Brian Scalabrine, Kendrick Perkins Cavs: Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydruans Ilgauskas
--The Celtics are an excellent halfcourt defense team and we know the Cavs are not a good halfcourt offensive team. Thus, pushing the ball will be important tonight. Especially off rebounds, which the Cavs should get more of with Kevin Garnett out. --The X-factor tonight could be Glen Davis, who is quick and burly. The Cavs don't have Andy Varejao to counteract him so it may fall to Dwayne Jones to bang with him. But he is very effecitve on pick-and-rolls. --Biggest key for Cavs maybe keeping Rondo out of driving in the paint. Allen and Perkins get open shots when teams get out of rotation. Rondo has hurt the Cavs with this before. Considering he can't shoot, the Cavs should give him space.
Halftime -- Celtics 66, Cavs 64 --The Cavs have given up 62 percent shooting and are down just two points, which is the good news. The bad news is their defense has been terrible. Their rotations and pick-and-roll coverage have been lax all night. They are going to have to be much more active. --Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are a combined 18-of-23 from the floor. Rondo is the real issue because he's totally got the Cavs on their heels. They've followed the scouting report and let him shoot from the outside and he's made them and now they are struggling dealing with his drives. That includes LeBron. You still have to make him take jumpers, I think, if he makes them he makes them. --The Cavs have done a great job of pushing the ball, they have 16 fastbreak points, which has kept them in the game with the Celtics scoring so much. LeBron has 21 points, which is tremendous, but he's also got seven assists already. He wants to win this game badly. --Drew Gooden may be playing his worst game of the year. He's been totally out of it. Which hurts doubly when Varejao is out.
Stars LeBron, 33 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds Ilgauskas, 21 points, 10 rebounds Hughes, 18 points, six assists Allen, 24 points, five assists Pierce, 19 points Rondo, 20 points, seven rebounds
Quotes: Mike Brown: "It's great to have other guys go out there and perform, to keep having bodies go down is tough. I have to give the guys in that locker room credit because they found a way to win and did it with lineups that haven't been out on the floor together in a long time and did it against a good team." Doc Rivers: "We can't use not having (Garnett) as an excuse. We're good enough with what we've got to win basketball games." Gooden: "I'm hoping to be back Thursday. I heal fast, I'm a superhero."