BOSTON – It was win or go home for the Cavaliers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals with the Boston Celtics holding a 3-2 lead in the series.
They packed it up and will get the summer to ponder where and how things went wrong and worry about the franchise’s future after the Boston Celtics beat them 94-85 to take the series 4-2.
Kevin Garnett led the way for Boston with 22 points and Rajon Rondo followed him with 21 points and 12 assists. LeBron James after, spending a few days being criticized for his lack of effort and heart, recorded his sixth career post-season triple double with 27 points, 19 rebounds (a post-season high) and 10 assists. Point guard Mo Williams had 22 rebounds, seven rebounds and four assists.
‘’They’re battled tested and they came out and did a heck of a job against us,’’ coach Mike Brown said. ‘’You have to give them credit.’’
There is a lot that can be said about his performance in this game, but ‘’quit’’ isn’t one of them. He played aggressively and tried to perform virtual CPR on his out-of-sync team in the fourth quarter, only to have things come up short. He refused to blame his injured elbow for what happened, however.
‘’ I had opportunities to do things that I wanted to do, it just didn’t fall for me. I’m not using the elbow as an excuse. It limited me some. You hope to be 100 percent going into any series but at this point of the season I don’t know if there is anybody on both teams that’s 100 percent.”
James struggled for much of the game, looking more for his shot inside than out, something that the Celtics planned. He had little in the way of the way of a jumpshot, but somehow managed to eke out two three-point shots that cut the Celtics lead to 78-74 with 9:34 left in the game.
Boston rebounded, taking control of the game from that point on, going on a 10-0 run as they worked as a team to take turns hammering nails into the Cavs post-season coffin. A lay-up, by Rondo? No problem. Rasheed Wallace taking his youth elixir and hitting a three? Done. Rondo leading a fastbreak for an easy basket? It was there.
With 5:50 left in the fourth quarter the Cavs season officially ended with a Garnett slam dunk on a fastbreak courtesy of Rondo’s 12th assists of the game. They led the Cavs by 14 points and it was over. There was no turning it on, because they couldn’t.
The Celtics played defense so furiously that James found it difficult to drive to the lane to score, his only option on a night when his shot had little in the way of lift.
They held the Cavs to a mere 38 percent shooting in the game – 27 percent in the pivotal fourth quarter - and forced many of the 24 turnovers that the team committed that led to 27 Boston points.
But there were others to step up, right? Wrong. Williams looked as if he was heading for one of those redemption games that he was known. He had 20 points in the first half, but showed up with just two points in the second.
And while the Celtics deserve a lot of credit for just taking it to the Cavs, there were some curious moves that came from the coaching staff.
The most glaring one? Putting center Shaquille O’Neal on Garnett. Many have said that Garnett’s best years remain behind him? He found one more night in his old legs as he scored on O’Neal early and often. The move was made to minimize the defensive liability caused by Antawn Jamison. It didn’t work. And when Jamison went back on Garnett it still didn’t work.
‘’It was a tough match-up for us,’’ Brown said. It was also one that Celtics coach Doc Rivers understood the importance.
‘’He was key,’’ Rivers said. ‘’I thought he was going into the series. I didn’t know if he could do it.’’
Garnett’s success might have been easier to take had Jamison stepped up on the offensive side of the floor, but he didn’t. In fact with just five points, Jamison was virtually invisible.
The loss will leave Northeast Ohioans with another bad taste in their mouths, but it also leaves a cloud of doubt hanging over the franchise’s head.
James is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract and test free agent waters and it would be ludicrous to suggest that Brown’s job will be secure after this one.