NBA: Cavaliers 74, Celtics 69
By Tom Withers
CLEVELAND ó The Cleveland Cavaliers packed for a weekend stay in Beantown ó not a few weeks on Cape Cod.
They’ve got at least one more game left, and in the NBA, it’s as big as they ever get.
Game 7. On Sunday. In Boston.
LeBron James scored 32 points ó 19 in the second half ó and the Cavaliers forced a decisive and fitting finale to this home-sweet-home playoff series with a 74-69 victory Friday night over the Celtics, who have gone from regular-season road kings to postseason road kill.
James, whose jump shot has mysteriously been missing in this series, made two key baskets midway through the fourth quarter to slow a Boston comeback, Wally Szczerbiak hit a 3-pointer with 2:10 remaining and Joe Smith dropped two free throws with 14 seconds left as the Cavs moved the series back to the East Coast.
The Cavs are attempting to become the 14th team to overcome an 0-2 deficit and win a series, and to do so, the defending Eastern Conference champions will have to win in Boston, where the Celtics are 7-0 in the postseason and play like a team with title potential.
On the road, they’re just ordinary.
The Celtics are 15-3 in Game 7s at home, but the Cavaliers may have some confidence playing on the parquet after nearly winning Games 1 and 5.
Kevin Garnett scored 25 points, Paul Pierce 16 and Ray Allen just nine on 3-of-8 shooting. The Celtics got just two points from guard Rajon Rondo, who scored 20 in their Game 5 win. Boston’s point total was the second lowest in franchise playoff history and the fewest points ever given up by Cleveland in the postseason.
Afterward, Celtics coach Doc Rivers was still fuming over some calls he felt went against his team.
“Tell the refs to do the interview. They were just as important,” an angry Rivers shouted at a team official as he walked back from the postgame news conference.
James added 12 rebounds, Delonte West had 10 points and Smith came off the bench to add nine, none bigger than his two free throws that closed out the Celtics.
Cleveland’s win continued a run of domination by home teams, who are now 21-1 on their floors in the second round of the playoffs.
Leading by nine at halftime, the Cavs opened the third quarter with seven straight points from James to open a 51-36 lead.
But just when it appeared the Celtics were in major trouble, they responded behind Garnett, who scored eight points in a 13-0 spurt that pulled Boston within three. James finally ended Cleveland’s offensive lapse with a layup and the Cavs got a tip-in and fling-in from Anderson Varejao for a 59-50 lead entering the fourth.