Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Welcome To The Jungle

Last night the Cleveland Cavaliers entered The Jungle to play the first game of the Conference semifinals. The majority of NBA analysts and color commentators all agreed that the Celtics would have a tougher series against the Cavaliers because they are a "better" team than the Hawks and LeBron has torched the Celtics during the regular season.

The thing is that basketball is all about matchups while the Hawks presented a number of problems for the Celtics the only two players on the Cavs roster that present issues for the Celtics are Zydrunas Ilgauskas and LeBron James. The Celtics will throw different looks at LeBron and have him go against Pierce and Posey while shadowing him with Perk and KG. The court shrunk and passing lanes and spacing disappeared instantly when LeBron had the ball in the paint.

Even with all of these defensive schemed put into place LeBron was still just one rebound and one assist shy of a quadruple double...he ended up with 12 points (on 2-18 from the field and 0-6 from deep), 9 rebounds, 9 assists and 10 turnovers. This game was a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Here are some random facts and stats from the game:

The Cavs were 22-26 from the free throw line while the Celtics went just 14-18 for a +8 point advantage in Cleveland's favor.

The Celtics committed 21 turnovers and only forced 17 Cav turnovers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers had 12 steals in the game and the Celtics could only muster up 5 all night.

The Celtics only had 18 assists while the Cavaliers managed 19 on 23 made field goals.

Ray Allen was held scoreless in an NBA game for the first time in 11 years.

Paul Pierce was in foul trouble early and only scored 4 points in Game 1.

Based on those stats you'd think that the Celtics lost the game. The thing about stats is that they only tell half of the story, the other half involves desire, mental toughness and making big plays when it counts most. Here are some more stats from last night's game:

The Cleveland Cavaliers were held to 31% shooting from the field (23-75) last night. Kevin Garnett (28 pts 8 rebs 3 ast 2 stl) and Kendrick "The Hulk" Perkins (7 pts 12 rebs 2 blk) controlled the paint. Rajon Rondo (15 pts 5 rebs 6 ast) pushed the tempo and pressured the Cavs guards. James Posey (8 pts on 2-4 from deep) and Sam Cassell (13 pts) each had a couple of clutch three pointers and free throws in the 4th quarter.

Cleveland had a 51-45 lead and possession of the ball with less than 5:00 left in the 3rd quarter before the Celtics went on an 8-1 run to take a slim 53-52 lead into the 4th quarter. It was a back and forth game in the final frame until the Celtics took the lead just to lose it with 1:30 left in the game.

It was 70-68 until Kevin Garnett hit a long clutch jumper @ 1:17 left to tie the game up at 70-70. The Celtics played some tough D at the other end and Sam Cassell came up with the ball and got fouled. The C's took the lead back (72-70) with 52.8 seconds left behind two clutch free throws.

The game was tied again by an Ilgauskas tip-in and Kevin Garnett responded by taking Joe Smith to the hole and converting the go ahead bucket. LeBron James took it on himself to drive to the rack and tie the game but his attempt rimmed out and James Posey grabbed the board and was immediately fouled. He converted the two game sealing free throws with 8.5 seconds left in the contest.

The Boston Celtics scrapped their way throughout an aesthetically challenged (much like our very own Sam I Am) game and came up with a 76-72 triumph in front of the Garden faithful for an all important 1-0 series lead. I haven't seen a Celtics win this gut wrenching since that 2002 playoff 66-64 win against the Detroit Pistons.

Hopefully, both of these teams got their crap games out of their collective systems (with the exception of Rondo and KG). Hopefully, the Celtics spank the James Gang again tomorrow by a sizeable margin (y'all ain't tryin' to see a fired up Headband P!) so we can see Gino while the game's still on.

Game 2 @ TD Banknorth Garden (1) Boston Celtics vs. (4) Cleveland Cavaliers
May 8th @ 7:00 PM ESPN BOS leads 1-0

The Most Likely To Explode For A Big Game Tomorrow Award Goes To:


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