Cavaliers Demolish Celtics to Take Series Lead

In a game most thought would be a competitive dogfight decided in the final moments, the Cleveland Cavaliers obliterated the Celtics 124-95. LeBron James led the way for the Cavs, scoring 38, with 8 rebounds and 7 assists against a pathetic defensive effort by Boston. Antawn Jamison recorded a double-double, dropping 20 points and pulling down 12 boards. Cleveland had four other players who also reached double digits. Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo put in 19 and 18 respectively for the Celtics.

The Cavaliers came out hot, starting the game on a 6-0 run including two Shaquille O'Neal buckets. The Celtics were able to cut the lead to two at 10-8, but after that Cleveland went on a 12-0 run that silenced the crowd in the TD Banknorth Garden and gave the Cavs a commanding 14 point lead headed by spectacular shooting by LeBron James. With Boston big men Garnett and Kendrick Perkins missing time in the first quarter with two fouls apiece, the Cleveland offense dominated. Rasheed Wallace came back down to Earth after his performance in Game 2 and played auspicious defense. He gave up at least two layups not rotating, and pulled down a whole one rebound in the entire first half. James went on a 6-0 run of his own in the last couple minutes of the opening frame capped off by a highlight reel reverse dunk to further open up the Cavaliers lead to 21. At the end of one quarter, Cleveland led 36-17 and LeBron had 21 points, only three less than he scored in all of Game 2. Cleveland also shot close to 40% better from the field and shot eight more free throws than Boston (13-5) in the quarter.

Boston picked up the slack offensively in the second quarter, but were unable to get stops on the defensive end of the court. The C's were able to get the lead down to 16 on a pair of occasions, but Cleveland was relentless on offense. Garnett and Paul Pierce did get a few buckets, but it seemed like Cleveland was scoring on every possession. By the end of the half, the lead had ballooned up to 22 at 65-43. James scored another seven in the second to give him 28 for the half, while Rondo and KG each chipped in 12 for Boston. Ray Allen, who came in leading the Celtics in scoring for the series, had just three points in the first half. Cleveland shot a whopping 61.5% from the field, while Boston shot just 42.9%.
The Cavs continued to pile on the points in the third quarter. After exchanging a few baskets,  LeBron James put Cleveland up 26 with just ten and a half minutes to go in the period with a three pointer. Whatever Doc Rivers told the Celts in his halftime speech clearly did not sink in as the Cavs dropped 31 points in the third quarter. With just over four and a half minutes left, Kendrick Perkins blocked a shot and dove into the stands to save it by the sidelines. He threw it back onto the court, and it landed in the hands of Cleveland forward Antawn Jamison, who laid it in for two points. That basket extended the lead to 30 points, the largest deficit the Celtics have faced all season. Nate Robinson did make an appearance off the bench, and scored eight points in three minutes. Even though Boston scored 27 points in the third quarter, they still trailed 96-70 with 12 minutes to go in regulation.

Cleveland dominated the fourth quarter, just like they did the first three. The Celtics never got any closer than 23, and continued to play the same sloppy defense they had been playing since the start of the game. Boston made no adjustments to slow the Cleveland offense down the entire game. For a team that supposedly prides itself on defensive effort and intensity it was a weak showing at best. The Cavaliers played hard up until the final buzzer and finished ahead by 29, although they led by as many as 35 in the quarter . It was an embarrassing loss for Boston, one that they will need to forget about quickly, as Game 4 of the series tips Sunday afternoon in Boston at 3:30.