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You can’t blame the Cleveland Cavaliers if their minds were elsewhere during Tuesday night’s 106-87 drubbing at the hands of an inspired Celtics team. With LeBron James and the Miami Heat returning to Cleveland for the first time since he tore their hearts out, a letdown seemed imminent. “On Thursday night, the Cavs will host the Miami Heat,” the loudspeakers trumpeted to the few fans left in Quicken Loans Arena. A predictable cacophony of boos followed.
Despite the impending LeBron distraction, a basketball game did indeed take place. The Cavaliers actually came out hot, and led through the first quarter. But like Cleveland, Rajon Rondo was shot out of a cannon himself — only he was able to maintain the pace for all four quarters. Despite a flimsy hamstring and hobbled foot, Rondo scored a season-high 23 points with 12 assists, leading the charge as the Celtics won their fourth straight. Sure, he missed his first three shots, but he followed by nailing his next 11 out of 14 as the Celtics took off in the second quarter.
The Celtics bench continues to impress, with Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels chipping in with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Daniels lived in the lane (see above photo) and was rewarded for his efforts. Davis also pulled down 11 rebounds, and Coach Doc Rivers couldn’t have been happier.
“I thought the bench turned the game around. They pounded it down low to [Davis] and Marquis,” Rivers beamed. “I thought those were the two guys changed that changed [the] game for us.”
Rivers attributed the performance to an early practice session the reserves held on their own Monday, before the starters arrived. Nate Robinson also contributed eight points and four rebounds.
For Cleveland, Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson scored 16 apiece for the Cavs, who were held to an abysmal 39 percent shooting and never really had a chance beyond halftime. This week will certainly be filled with distractions and emotions with James returning home for the first time as a visitor.
“It will be really hostile,” said Cavs forward J.J. Hickson, who was held to one point by the Celtics. “It’s no secret. He is coming back to where he originally started. It’s going to be a great environment. I’d be lying if I said it’s a normal game.”
Rondo’s 23 points came on 11-for-17 shooting contributing to his eighth double-doubles in the 14 games he’s played. He also pulled down five rebounds and said post-game that his adrenaline helps fight the pain. As he came off the floor for good in the fourth, Rondo was cheered by the entire Boston bench, including Rivers. Rondo was often able to drive the lane with ease, and the Celtics scored a ridiculous 60 points in the lane.
“He did his thing,” Cleveland guard Daniel Gibson said. “I’ve known him for a long time and there’s not much that separates him from those other [elite point guards].”
While the Big 3 were relatively quiet, Kevin Garnett recorded his eighth double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds, including a nifty and-one off the glass which got the big man as hyped up as ever.
Anderson Varejao and Gibson scored 16 apiece for the Cavs, but Gibson couldn’t help continue to praise his opponent.
“We stopped doing the things that got us the lead. We started to let the ball stick. Once you let the ball stick against that team, it gets really tough to score.”
And when Rajon Rondo is having his way, you had better find a way to score. The Cavs couldn’t, but at least they have a mediocre opponent headed to town Thursday.