The Boston Celtics cleaned up against the No. 1 seeded Cleveland Cavaliers 104–86 on Monday night to tie the series 1–1 and take the home court advantage back to Boston for Game 3 on Friday.
It was a total team effort by Boston, with Rajon Rondo at the helm with 13 points and 19 assists—tying a career playoff high.
All five of Boston’s starters and sixth man Rasheed Wallace reached double-digit scoring. Ray Allen led the team with 22 points including three 3-pointers.
On the night that LeBron James was awarded with the NBA MVP award—his second consecutive—the King looked unlike his usual self, to the dismay of Cleveland fans.
A fourth quarter surge brought LeBron’s scoring up to 24 points to lead the game, but the superstar had a mediocre first half and was clearly bothered by his bruised elbow.
From the first few minutes of play at Quicken Loans Arena, the Celtics looked like they were going to be able to control the tempo of the first half like they did in Game 1 on Saturday. But they did that and more.
The Celtics ran ahead with an 11–4 run to start the game and then went on a 12–0 run to start the second quarter off the hot hand of Wallace, who pulled the team up by 16 points.
In between these spurts, Cleveland pulled the deficit back, led largely by the play of Antawn Jamison, who had 11 points to lead all Cavs in the first half.
Cleveland never took the lead though and the half closed 52–48 in favor of Boston. James had just 8 points and shot 2–5 from the field.
Still, Boston should have been up by much more than four points at the half. The Celtics clearly controlled the tempo but ran into trouble with turnovers with some sloppy travels.
“It’s the turnovers and we’re missing the easy looks. We’re not converting on [fast] breaks,” Rondo told TNT at half time.
But Boston surged ahead to a 23-point lead in the third quarter with a 31–12 scoring differential. The starting lineup absolutely decimated the Cavs offensively and defensively.
Boston kept their momentum up for the beginning of the fourth quarter but then went ice cold in scoring for over four minutes.
This, combined with very poor fouls against the Cavs that put them on the foul line one possession after another, allowed the hosts to go on a largely unchallenged 15–0 run and get within 10 points.
The letdown sent Boston coach Doc Rivers into a bit of a tirade and Paul Pierce finally scored off a drive to break Boston’s drought.
“We were playing the clock instead of the game. We got stagnant and stopped looking at the score,” Rondo said.
Boston kept it together down the stretch and pulled back ahead to the dismay of Cleveland fans. Earlier in the quarter a disgruntled fan threw a beer bottle onto the court after Paul Pierce wrestled James to the ground for a loose ball.
With the worst behind them, Boston now has a chance to take the series lead at home on Friday.
“We feel very comfortable. It’s very important that we come out [strong] in Game 3,” Rondo said.