NBA: Road-weary Celtics try to win in Cleveland
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio ó It’s do or summertime for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
One more loss, and a second straight Eastern Conference title is history.
One more win, and it’s back to Chowderland for Game 7.
After squandering a 14-point lead at Boston in a hail of missed free throws and getting entangled by the Celtics’ spiderweb-like defense in Game 5, LeBron James and his teammates are down 3-2 and facing elimination from the NBA playoffs on Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
They’ll go into Game 6 short-handed.
Guard Daniel Gibson, one of the club’s best perimeter shooters and a star in last year’s postseason, separated his left shoulder. The Cavaliers may be done before he’s well.
“It’s something we didn’t want to happen,” James said following a light workout Thursday. “It’s kind of the tale of our season ó a guy goes down in the heat of a playoff series. He’s very key to our team. It’s not good seeing a guy who is that key to your team in a suit.”
Gibson underwent an MRI on his shoulder after the club returned from Boston.
Gibson made two 3-pointers and scored 14 points in Cleveland’s win in Game 4. In last year’s Eastern Conference finals, he scored 31 points ó 25 in the second half ó as the Cavs put away the Detroit Pistons in Game 6 to advance to their first finals.
For them to force a Game 7 in Boston, the Cavaliers may need someone else to come off the bench and come through.
“We’re not looking for a spectacular game from anybody,” said James, who scored 35 points on 12-of-25 shooting in Game 5. “We just want to continue to do what we’ve been doing in the two wins we’ve had at home ó guys stepped up. We’re not looking for a guy to go out and score 30 points or anything like that.”
Cleveland coach Mike Brown said he hasn’t decided whether to play reserves Devin Brown or Damon Jones in Gibson’s spot. He may just give extended minutes to swingman Sasha Pavlovic, who played only 10 ó his average for the series ó in Game 5.
The Cavaliers spent most of Thursday reviewing film before practicing their free throws. They went only 28-of-41 (68 percent) from the line in Boston and missed 10 in the second half, but what bothered them most was a lack of intensity in the third quarter, when the Celtics outscored them 29-17.
Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who scored just six points on only five shots in Game 5, couldn’t explain Cleveland’s passivity after leading 43-29 with less than four minutes to go in the first half.
“We had them on their heels,” he said. “(In the second half) It just seemed like we really weren’t into it. We came out a half-step slow.”
And the Celtics blew right by Cleveland, especially point guard Rajon Rondo, who scored 20 points with 13 assists, two steals, two blocks and just one turnover in 42 minutes. Late in the first half, the Cavaliers left Rondo, not known for his outside shot, wide open and he knocked down two 3-pointers as the Celtics closed with a 14-3 run that gave them momentum they would carry into the second half.
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