NBA Playoff Recap - Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 2
(4) Boston 104, (1) Cleveland 86 - Series tied, 1-1
The city of Cleveland has never had a Super Bowl champion. It hasn't won a World Series since its beloved Indians did the deed in 1948. The metropolitan area tucked into the northeast corner of Ohio has also never celebrated an NBA championship, but the Cleveland Cavaliers were supposed to change things this year.
After a disastrous Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs better fix their problems quickly... or else they won't get very far in the attempt to claim an historic triumph for their city.
Cleveland fans have to be in a very familiar place following an 18-point thumping endured at the hands of the rejuvenated and confident Boston Celtics. What was a four-point game got blown open in the third quarter, as the C's uncorked a 31-12 blitzkrieg en route to a 91-66 lead. Yes, the Cavs unleashed a 15-0 run of their own, but that stretch of excellence merely chipped Boston's lead to 10. LeBron James and the rest of his teammates couldn't get over the hump, and now the character of this series has seemingly been shaped.
Following Cleveland's comeback win in Game 1, it was still an open question as to whether the Celtics had a run in them or not. It was worth debating if Boston's first-round series win over Miami held any relevance or not. Yes, the C's and coach Doc Rivers moved past Miami in five games, not the six or seven most folks expected. Yet, Miami was a No. 5 seed carried along by one and only one player, Dwyane Wade, who needed to play one of his very best games (and that's saying something) to avert a sweep. The Celtics looked more vibrant and committed in that series, but it was fair to contend that Boston fed off a decidedly inferior foe. The Cavs presented a markedly different opponent, a team that - for the second straight year - finished with the best regular-season record in the NBA. Everyone in hoopville wondered if the Celtics had a legitimate chance to stare down the Cavs and last more than five games.
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After Monday night, it definitely appears that way: Barring an improbable turn of events, we're headed for a long series, not a short one.
After Game 2, one thing is abundantly clear: Rajon Rondo is having the best series of anyone on the floor. Yes, better than LeBron James, who - after seemingly brushing off his dinged-up elbow in Game 1 - struggled to a 24-point outing and was far from his best.
While King James searched for his A-game, Rondo - who carried the Celtics in Game 1 - did more of the same in this contest as well. Despite the lack of a reliable mid-range jumper, which in turn enables defenses to play off him and focus on the other four Celtics on the court, Rondo still found ways to get his teammates the ball in good situations. Rondo tied a franchise record with 19 assists, dominating the proceedings without having to score (he finished with 13 points). Simply stated, if you tie an all-time playoff record with the Boston Celtics, you've clearly done something right. For a franchise that's had Bob Cousy, Jo Jo White, Tiny Archibald, and Dennis Johnson (among others) play point guard, tying or eclipsing them in a given category represents a towering achievement. Rondo is towering over the rest of the players in this series despite his physically unimposing stature. Boston's surge to a 25-point fourth quarter lead - built on the back of a 16-3 run late in the third period - was built largely on Rondo's shoulders. Cleveland made a countersurge of its own, but again, it was too little and too late for Mike Brown's bunch, which must now go to Boston and gain at least a split of Games 3 and 4.
Boston doesn't really have the advantage in this series. Not yet. The Celtics have been far too spotty and inconsistent this year, especially at home, to deserve to be called the favorite at this point.
Yet, what's just as apparent is that Cleveland can't really be called the favorite either... not after this stinker on its home court.
This series sure smells like seven games, doesn't it? That's not what Cleveland sports fans wanted to hear after just two games in Ohio.
Pro Basketball Fans Senior Staff Writer
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