Well, there was no lack of effort on LeBron James' and Cleveland's part. They tried their best. The Cavs' shooting was the problem. 28-of-73 from the floor (38%). Five-of-17 from 3 (29%). That's the game in a nutshell and there was another factor I'll get to in a minute. Boston shot 44% from field and 29% on three pointers, but they made them when they counted. A couple of huge threes by Rasheed Wallace and three treys by Paul Pierce in the third and fourth quarters opened things up for the Celtics. With the Celts leading 62-58 with 4:05 left in third, Pierce canned a 24-foot trifecta to put Celts up 65-58. With the Celts leading 67-61 with 2:46 left in third, 'Sheed sank a trifecta to extend the Celts lead to 70-61. Pierce came back down after a LeBron James turnover (he had nine in the game) and sank another trey to put Celts up 73-61 with 2:15 left in the third. James brought the Cavs back with two beautiful three pointers to cut the lead to 78-74 with 9:34 left in the final period. After some misses on the next couple of possessions, Rajon Rondo sank a layup to put Celts up 80-74 with 8:33 left. After a 'Sheed block of an Anderson Varajao shot, Pierce came down and connected again from trifecta to put Celts up 83-74. 'Sheed came back and sank another three with 6:09 left to put Celts up 86-74 with 5:56 left. The Cavs cut it to 92-85 with 1:46 left, but let Boston have three chances at the basket on offensive rebounds by Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and Garnett sank a six-foot shot with 1:27 left to close the door on the Cavs, 94-85.
James played his heart out going for 27 points, 19 boards and 10 assists. He was still 8-of-21 from the floor and had those nine turnovers, which were very costly. The Cavs turned it over 22 times compared to the Celtics 13. That was one of the main differences in the game. That and the shooting were the most important stats.
But the major disparity in the game and in this series was talent. The Celtics were more talented than the Cavs. Those 30-somethings can play. I don't think their age really matters. Highly conditioned athletes now play into their late 30's. Look at John Elway, Brett Favre, Steve Nash and Jerry Rice among others. Allen is 34 and better than ever. KG and Pierce, both in their 30's, are playing lights out. KG had 22 and 12. He's a machine. Rondo, a total warrior and a fantastic basketball player, had 21 and 12 assists. He was the most valuable player in the series, no doubt. Allen didn't have his best game, but he was a factor throughout the series. And Pierce woke up late in the series. Three huge threes last night. He finished with 13. Guys like 'Sheed, Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Tony Allen provided huge minutes off the bench. This team is so talented, the most talented in the league in my opinion and playing their best basketball at the right time. I picked Cleveland earlier; just didn't realize how good the Celtics are. They didn't play their best in the regular season and a lot of people were writing them off. I didn't write them off and thought this series would go seven games, but thought the Cavs would prevail. I misremembered (as Roger Clemens said) that this is the same Celts team that won the NBA title two years ago. They are so good.
I'm looking forward to both conference finals matchups. Boston-Orlando should be a rugged Eastern conference war and the West should be electric with the Suns-Lakers. I like the Celtics and the Suns to advance to the finals though both series should be very intriguing. The Suns are the most exciting team in basketball, and if they can somehow slow down Kobe, not stop him but slow him down, and hang with the front wall of the Lakers on defense and rebound well, they have a shot. They have their seven-footer Robin Lopez coming back from a bulging disk in his back and that should help their inside game. With Nash, you never count out the Suns. They must shoot well from three point range.
Orlando has looked very good in the playoffs. The Celtics are just so tough and talented. Like both series to go deep, six or seven games, but like Celts to win. I'll go out on a limb and pick the Suns. I just like their chemistry right now.
As for LeBron, who knows? They're talking Chicago, New York, LA Clippers, New Jersey. Chicago sounds like somewhere he'd be very interested in, particularly if they hire a coach like John Calipari. Cleveland's not out of the picture, though I think James is probably burnt out with the lack of success in the postseason at Cleveland. It just doesn't seem to work. I'd love to see him stay there, it's still possible. Should be an interesting time for LeBron James' followers in the next month and a half. He has till July 1 to decide.
(Kevin Garnett pictured above)