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Lebron James totally dominated play on the court last night in helping his red-hot Cavs (15-4 since Dec. 25) defeat the Celtics 114-113. LeBron had a game-high 33 points to go with 9 rebounds, 12 assists, and 5 steals. He’s really one of the very best players in the NBA. In fact, he and Wilt Chamberlain are the only players to score 30 points in nine straight games against the Celtics.
The Celtics were clearly missing Kevin Garnett, who missed his fourth-straight game with a strained abdominal muscle. They got out-rebounded 37-27, which is hard to believe considering they hit 57% of their shots. Ray Allen (8-13) helped the Celtics with a team-high 24 points, but his hot-shooting could not quell the Cavs prolific rebounding.
The Cavs were powered by 17 offensive rebounds, including 7 of those from Zyndrunas Ilgauskas. BIg Z had himself a really good game too, finishing with 21 points, 10 total boards, and 5 blocked shots. I absolutely guarantee that if Kevin Garnett were playing, Big Z wouldn’t come close to those stats.
It’s hard to pick out any reasons why the Celtics lost. It was just a 1-point game, but their defense certainly failed them. There’s not many stats to go along with that except that in rebound opportunities while the Cavs were on offense, the Celtics grabbed only 22 of 39 total rebound chances. The Cavs grabbed the other 17 on the offensive end. Cleveland shot 50.6% from the floor, and when you get that many second chances, you’re most likely going to win the game. In any Celtics loss this season, their inability to grab defensive rebounds (thus preventing opposing offensive rebounds) has been the key.
The C’s had no trouble shooting, going 42-74 from the floor (56.8%), 9-18 from 3-pt land (50%), and 20-22 from the FT line (90.9%). Good to see the offense can still step its game up with KG out, but their defense needs drastic improvement without him.
I will give the Celtics the benefit of the doubt: apparently some of the team is suffering from the flu. Pierce played through the sickness for much of the game. He still managed to finish with 19 points on 8-15 shooting. Good enough for an individual effort, but obviously not good enough to help his team win the game.
I’m fine with the Celtics coasting to the playoffs and Kevin Garnett out nursing his injury. That’s alright so long that Garnett is healthy come playoff time. The seeding in the Eastern Conference isn’t too big of a deal because there’s really only a few teams at the top. The Celtics, Pistons, Magic, and Cavs will all be at the top of the conference by the end of the season. Teams like the Wizards, Raptors, Hawks, Nets, or Bulls will round out the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, and in a 7-game series, I like the Celtics’ chances in the opening couple rounds.