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Stealing a line from the great Charles Dickens, Saturday night’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers can only be described as a tale of two halfs. After building a seemingly stable eleven point lead at halftime, the Celtics were outscored 58-39 in the the final two quarters, as the Cavs stole Game 1 101-93.
An overtime victory by the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semi-Final series earlier in the day had Boston sports fans hoping for a Saturday sweep, but it wasn’t to be.
The Celtics got off to a hot start, outscoring the Cavs by six points in the first quarter, and five points in the second quarter, thanks in large part to the outstanding play of Point Guard Rajon Rondo, who finished with game with 27 points and 12 assists. Cleveland had no answer for Rondo in the first half. Rondo drove past Mo Williams, Delonte West, and any other defender who tried to stop him like they were standing still. He made the paint his home, blowing by perimeter defenders, and somehow converting layups over much taller interior players. Rondo’s aggressiveness also got him to the line early and often, where he converted 12 of 14 free throws.
Then the third quarter began, and things started going downhill fast for the C’s. Cleveland Coach Mike Brown made the strategic move of the game, using 6 ft. 7 Anthony Parker to neutralize Rondo, while Cleveland Point Guard Mo Williams answered Rondo’s first half onslaught with a little magic of his own. Williams who finished with 20 points and 6 assists, connected on several jumpers to bring his team back to within striking distance, then capped of his scoring frenzy with a ferocious fast-break dunk over Paul Pierce, sending the home crowd into a frenzy. The dunk ignited the Cavs who finished the game on a 43-24 run.
“I told Mo a long time ago if he ever dunked in a game it was going to spark us like we haven’t been sparked before. Not only did it fire the team, it fired himself up” said LeBron James.
LeBron, set to receive his second-consecutive NBA MVP Award later today, stuffed the stat sheet with 35 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. So much for that elbow injury.
“It’s been better,” James said of his elbow. “But that’s no excuse for me. I don’t make any excuses and I’ll be ready for (Game 2) Monday.”
King James was quiet in the first half, and had many, including me, thinking the injured elbow was hindering his play. But as he’s done so many times in the postseason throughout his career, LeBron willed his team to victory. He drove to his left, then drove to his right, and when his layups didn’t drop in, it was because someone fouled him, and he got his points at the stripe. To top it all off, he drained a three-pointer with 22 seconds left, ending any chance of a Celtics comeback.
“You knew it was coming,” Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought toward the end of the second quarter he started his assault.”
The Series resumes with Game 2 from Cleveland on Monday evening. You can catch it on TNT at 8:00 PM (ET).