Cavs 88, Celtics 77
--Last season in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, in the fourth quarter LeBron James came out of traffic and dunked over the top of Rasheed Wallace. Looking back, I felt the series sort of turned with that play, the Cavs were able to get that win and they never looked back. It is possible that LeBron's dunk in the fourth quarter over Kevin Garnett could have that affect in this series. Maybe not, lots of basketball to go and the Celtics are a different team at home. However, he is starting to figure out where some driving lanes are and his shot is slowly coming around. We'll see. Anyway, they must have showed that highlight six times over on the videoboard during the timeout after the play. --Anderson Varejao was a huge difference-maker in this game. His ability to defend Kevin Garnett 1-on-1 down the stretch was huge. Not only did he basically stop Garnett (who was 1-of-7 in the second half) but because he didn't need double teams it enabled the Cavs to stay at home on their men. The Celtics ran a few iso plays to take advantage of the matchup but Varejao bumped him out of his comfort zone several times. He also made some shots, which helped the Cavs on offense, but that was less important. --It was a flashback to five years ago late in the first half when Gloria James jumped in from her courtside seat to defend LeBron after Pierce's hard foul on a breakaway sent him into the seats. When LeBron was a senior in high school he was undercut on a dunk by Roy Hall (who later played football at Ohio State and now plays with the Indianapolis Colts) and Gloria went out on the floor after Hall. She's been pretty tame since, until this moment. She ran right up to Garnett and got in his face. KG was cool about it, he was telling her to settle down. Then LeBron got up, saw her and he yelled: "Sit your a-- down." Classic. here's what he said about it after the game:
"Even though that is my mother, you can't have fans going after players like that. The Commissioner doesn't care if it is your mother, I can't afford her not to be at every last one of my games. I told her to sit down in language I shouldn't have used. Thank God today wasn't Mother's Day."
--The Cavs have held the Celtics under 80 points twice in this series, which only happened to them twice during the regular season. Their rotations and energy level at the defense end is so strong right now. They are really recovering well and are taking advantage of the Celtics not being in a rhythm. For this series the Celtics are averaging just 81 points and are shooting 40 percent. --The ball movement in this game was again superior. You could really see on several occasions how the Cavs beat the Celtics rotation with the extra pass, which is what wasn't close to happening in Boston. The Cavs had 24 assists and just seven turnovers in Game 4. Over the last two games they have 63 assists on 74 baskets. That is remarkable. --LeBron has 10 steals and seven blocks in this series, he's making an impact at both ends. I also think he's in Pierce's head a little bit. Sometimes after LeBron scores you can see in Pierce's body language that he wants to score. He's taking shots out of their offense at times and taking a lot of shots with a high degree of difficulty.
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins Cavs: Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Steve Javie, Bob Delaney, Mark Wunderlich
--Anderson Varejao is going to play, he sat out practice yesterday to let his knee recover from the bruise he got in Game 3. Wallace also is a go. --LeBron got here about three hours before game time to work on his jumpers. The Celtics continue doing a good job keeping him out of the paint, but he's been allowed 15-18 footers. He's got to make them or else he'll continue to struggle. That is what he was working on. --David Stern is in the building, for whatever that is worth. Perhaps he can meet with O.J. Mayo, who is supposed to be here as well. I'll bet they could have some interesting conversations. --The Celtics had an intense practice yesterday, so much so that they skipped shootaround today. They were working on their defense, which slipped big time, in Game 3. I think you will see a much more focused Celtics team across the board tonight. They know if they win tonight the series will basically be over. --The Celtics felt they overplayed LeBron and Z in Game 3. The Cavs adjustment was to run more of a high post offense with the two to free up space in the corners and blocks. That's why Z got so many assists (6) in the last game. So look for the Celtics to maybe loosened up their double teams. --Kevin Garnett has not gotten many shots in the last two games. The Cavs have been double-teaming him more in the post. Also, Delonte West has been cheating off Rondo to help clog the lane. Perhaps some more isos for Garnett and some different spacing from the Celtics will be employed tonight.
Halftime -- Cavs 45, Celtics 43
--This is the type of game many expected, very tight. The Cavs got hurt a bit with LeBron having to sit the last four minutes with three fouls. But he hadn't been out of the game yet and he needed his rest no matter what. --Cavs are playing excellent defense. They are just leaving Rondo alone and living with it. Pierce has hurt them with Sasha Pavlovic guarding him a little, but he's still making him work. Garnett is just being masterful, the guy is having a big time series. He's playing like an MVP. Though I thought Andy Varejao did a pretty good job bodying him in the post in the second quarter. --The Cavs only have four turnovers in the half, which has been key because they are not getting second chance points. They continue to get outrebounded in the series, which is largely due to Garnett. --LeBron's jumper isn't falling again but he's been able to find some lanes to the basket. You have to figure this game is going to come right down to it so his ability to create is probably going to be vital again.
Stars LeBron, 21 points, 13 assists Szczerbiak, 14 points, Varejao, 12 points, six rebounds Garnett, 15 points, 10 rebounds
Quotes Mike Brown on the dunk: "I wanted to flex my muscles but I don't have any muscles. So I just flexed by jaw and gave LeBron a five." LeBron: "We held down homecourt, they held down homecourt. The better team has to win on road to win the series." Doc Rivers: "You think LeBron is struggling? You only look at the field goal percentage, we don't. We look at the way he's playing his total game and he's making plays. Clearly no one right now is shooting well from the field, but let's give him some credit."