Thank Heaven this game didn't come down to free throws. Cleveland missed 17 free throws Sunday afternoon, but the Cavaliers' hustle and desire made them unneccesary in a big win over the Boston Celtics, 104-93.
LeBron James dominated the game, scoring 30 points, dishing out 7 assists, and pulling down 8 rebounds. The stat sheet was filled with stars for Cleveland, which included;
- Antawn Jamison, 15 points and 12 rebounds
- Anderson Varejao, 17 points and 10 rebounds
- Mo Williams, 14 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists
- J.J. Hickson, 12 points
The Cavs won this game by outhustling Boston and wearing down the Celtics. By midway through the fourth quarter, they had taken a close game and blown it open to a 17-point margin. The aging Celtics couldn't keep up and their shooting suffered as a result of being tired. Boston missed their first 9 shots from the floor to start the fourth and never recovered.
Cleveland has now gone 22-4 in their last 26 games and have seemingly shaken their bad record against quality opponents. Last season, their biggest weakness was their sub-par record against Boston, Orlando and the Lakers. this year, they are now 6-2 against those same three teams.
Boston is now 10 games behind the Cavs in the playoff hunt, and is the 4th seed. They have played below-.500 ball since Christmas and are struggling with their chemistry as the season rolls on.
Early on, the Cavaliers decided that they would win this game through sheer hustle. The Celtics were unable to keep up with the younger, quicker Cavs. Excellent snap-passes were key as Cleveland burst out to a 9-4 lead. Cold shooting in a very physical contest allowed the Celtics to get back in the game, but a late 8-0 run gave the Cavs a 24-18 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter began with sloppy play at both ends, but Cleveland was able to extend their modest lead when Mo Williams caught fire from behind the three-point stripe. The first half was well-rounded, as seven different players scored, but the hero of the first 24 minutes was Anderson Varejao. Varejao had 15 points, 6 rebounds in the half, and was clearly in the heads of Boston's big men. Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis both retreated to the bench with three fouls trying to contain him.
Cleveland led 54-48 at the half despite LeBron James only taking four total shots in the half, totalling 6 points. One of those shots was vintage King James.
With one minute to play in the first quarter, the shot clock began winding down as the ball slipped from James' grip. He gathered it on the left wing, dribbled out around Rasheeed Wallace and launched a 26-foot three-pointer, fading away as the shot clock expired. Nothing but net.
LeBron's low shot count changed drastically in the third quarter. James scored 13 points in the stanza and took over the game at several points. Boston had tied the game up, but James and Mo Williams wouldn't let them stay tied. A 12-4 run to close out the quarter gave Cleveland an 80-72 lead.
Then came the 4th quarter, and defense carried the day for the Cavs.
The Cavs magic number to win the division is now 2
The Cavs magic number to win the #1 Eastern seed is now 10
The Cavs magic number to win home court advantage throughout the playoffs is now 12
Rasheed Wallace shot 1-for-8 from the floor. I just like typing that.