NBA Playoffs: Celtics 96, Cavaliers 89
By Jimmy Golen
BOSTON ó Someone is going to have to win in Boston to keep the Celtics from winning their 17th NBA title.
Cleveland hopes for one more chance.
Kevin Garnett had 26 points and 16 rebounds, Rajon Rondo added 20 points and 13 assists, and the Celtics beat the Cavaliers 96-89 on Wednesday night to move within a win of the Eastern Conference finals.
Paul Pierce scored 29 and helped shut down LeBron James for much of the second half to give Boston a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven conference semifinal. James scored 23 of his 35 points in the first half and was mostly quiet in the second before scoring six in the final 3:26 after Boston was well in the lead.
Game 6 is Friday night in Cleveland, with the deciding game in Boston on Sunday ó if necessary.
Cleveland cut an 88-77 lead to six points with two minutes left and made it 91-87 on two free throws by Delonte West with 46 seconds to play. But Garnett got the rebound of his own miss, and Paul Pierce hit five free throws in the last 16 seconds as the Celtics ran down the clock.
The Celtics have yet to win on the road in these playoffs, allowing the eight-seeded Atlanta Hawks to go the distance before advancing from the first round. But Boston, which had an NBA-best 66-16 record in the regular season, doesn’t have to win on the road to win the title.
No team has ever won a title without winning an away game. In fact, Boston could be the first team to advance out of the second round without a road win.
Cleveland took a 43-29 lead in the second quarter thanks to eight straight points from James. But Rondo hit back-to-back 3-pointers as the Celtics scored 14 of the last 17 points in the first half, then took the lead with the first four points of the third quarter.
Garnett’s steal on the first possession of the second half sent Ray Allen on a fast break for a long 2-pointer, then Rondo’s steal and fast-break layup made it 47-46 for Boston’s first lead of the game.
The Celtics made nine of their first 11 shots in the second half, scoring seven straight points.