Celtics Eliminate Cavs
Game Notes from what could have been LeBron’s last game as a Cavalier.
by Ben Collins
LeBron James, unrestricted free agent, appears in the TD Garden press conference room at 12:01, a new day, finally. A little less than an hour ago, he finished up what might have been his last game as a Cleveland Cavalier.
Once again, he had one of those statistical anomaly kind of games that Wilt Chamberlain used to have because he was a foot taller than everyone else. Twenty-seven points, 19 rebounds at the small forward position, 10 assists at the small forward position.
It didn’t seem like one of those games took place. He had so little help, again, that his team lost by nine. The All-Star his general manager got him at the trade deadline, Antawn Jamison, was 2 of 10 from the field. The prized offseason acquisition, Shaquille O’Neal, played 24 minutes due to foul trouble. Mo Williams played one out-of-this-world half and died off by crunchtime.
LeBron had to carry the Cleveland Cavaliers all by himself again. But it was too heavy this time. It was too heavy, and he was sick of it, so he couldn’t. Or he wouldn’t.
The distinction would be pivotal every other year. “Did he quit? Did he not quit?” These questions would matter if he didn’t have the opportunity to leave a team that would make him ask that question in the first place.
Anyway, he’s here now, in this press conference room, giving some non-denial denials. Sometimes things slip out that probably shouldn’t have been said and the room gets a little tense.
“One of my friends told me the other day, ‘Sometimes you’ve got to go through a lot of nightmares before you accomplish your dreams,’” he says. Does he mean Cleveland? Is he calling Cleveland a nightmare?
No. He isn’t. But if he leaves, anyone from Cleveland will probably believe that he is.
Kevin Garnett had the stage before James. Literally and metaphorically. He was the last big-ticket item to be wooed away from a city that nurtured him since he was 18. He has some advice.
“He’s going to have a decision to make. Loyalty is something that hurts you at times,” he says. “Because you can’t have your youth back.”
Is this one of those situations?
“I have to find the best possibility for me,” LeBron says. “I love Cleveland … but at the same time, we’ve had some great times together.”
That’s a classic breakup line. That has to mean he’s leaving, right?
Truth is, he’s been flirting with the concept of bigger and better things for a long time now. And his teammates knew it, even before the game today.
Around the Cavs locker room before Game 6, every reporter is glaring at LeBron as he’s getting his legs rubbed down and rapping along with the song that’s coming out of his iPod. This is a usual occurrence for stars under enormous media microscopes like this.
But then you look around and notice that all of his teammates are glaring the same way. This is especially unusual. They’re staring down LeBron, trying to get some sort of hint about how he’s feeling or what kind of mood he’s in or, really, any facial tic or movement whatsoever that will tell them what sort of game we’re going to have tonight. Every player. Z, Mo Williams, JJ Hickson — anyone who is in the locker room.
LeBron catches Hickson doing this and screams some lyrics over to him.
“Just blow away, like the wind.” Lebron says this — really, these exact words. And JJ Hickson has no option but to mouth them back, so he doesn’t get caught staring.
“Just blow away, like the wind,” Hickson mouths, just confirming this, because whatever LeBron does, he has to confirm that it’s natural, that’s it’s true.
It’s like saying to a parrot, “I’m leaving you forever. I’m not coming back, and you knew this all along, but you’re just going to say this anyway because you have to. I’m your mealticket, but I’ll be gone someday, and no one will feed you anymore.”
And then the parrot says this: “I’m leaving you forever. I’m not coming back, and you knew this all along, but you’re just going to say this anyway because you have to. I’m your mealticket, but I’ll be gone someday, and no one will feed you anymore.”
And, then, it happens. Just like he said. Just like that.
- You get the feeling, just from the sound of this building, that it’s going to be a classic tonight. Every reporter, security guard or server seems anxious. They’re all asking each other gpt predictions about tonight. You get the feeling that whatever happens tonight has the real weight to it, like whatever happens is going to matter forever. Sounds dramatic, but it’s absolutely the air about the place.
- I got a text today that said LeBron, Shaq and Antawn Jamison all skipped the team bus and took cabs to the arena today. Shaq took a cab despite the team bus waiting outside. I don’t know if that’s the norm, but I do know it took place.
- Doc, on the dearth of questions.: “All this talk for 48 hours and this is all you guys have? Gosh…”
- It is so loud here tonight already. So loud.
- KG on a stepback elbow J. 2-0, Celtics.
- LeBron right back with an explosive dunk to start. He looks, uh, fine!
- Allen made jumper. LeBron missed jumper. KG made jumper. 6-2, Celtics.
– LeBron dribbles it off his leg and Delonte picks up the foul. It’s too loud in here to be funny tonight.
- I think that’s a direct quote by Jay Leno, by the way.
- After a tough Mo Williams bucket on a driving floater off the glass, the Cavs have completely gone away from LBJ for three straight possessions. He hasn’t touched the ball.
- Rondo gets a free floater off a Perk offensive rebound. It’s his first bucket and his first shot. For all this talk about the Cavs needing to work it inside to win, and that they’re this far-superior team of bigs, that’s proven to be hard argue so far this series. They might be considerably deeper at the big position, but they’re choosing not use that as a strength. 10-7, C’s.
- Rondo squeaks in a rifled pass to a wide-open Kendrick Perkins on an off-ball roll to the hoo for a dunk. 14-7, C’s.
- We’re through five full minutes and, other than the Cavs’ first offensive possession, LeBron is a no-show so far. He’s being outplayed by a couple of his teammates and three of the Celtics’ big four. If this game really is going to be decided in the first quarter, as predicted, then the Celtics are going to run away with this thing.
- Mike Finley, of all people, is clapping along to “Bang the Drum All Day” to get the crowd into it during the timeout.
- LeBron rejected on one dunk. Then gets a transition layup on the next possession. He has four.
- KG has 8. 20-11. All jumpers, but he has his angry face on, so he’s good. We’re still intimidated.
- LeBron is getting booed on the touch at home and on the road. No respect! No respect at all!
- Except in New York.
- Tony Allen flat-out strips LeBron of the ball on the break. Here’s a quick question: What if “what’s wrong with LeBron” is that he’s being completely killed on defense by someone who is flatly outcoaching him, Tony Allen has his number, and he’s just legitimately frustrated? Is that an option? Or are we still going to pretend like his elbow medication is making him depressed?
- We have some Who’s Your Daddy? chants from the Boston faithful as LeBron makes one-of-two from the line. 20-15, Celtics. Let’s see if that’s from Bill Simmons’ Twitter.
- Nope. It says “New York Knicks.” Could these people be sonically confused?
- Might as well start it now. Off-season scenario #522: LeBron is wooed heavily on July 1 by literally every team in the NBA. In a The Secret-esque maneuever, he feels shunned by one of the three teams that doesn’t outwardly genuflect and froth at his services. Those teams? Let’s say the Bucks (don’t think they ever had a chance), Pacers (ditto) and Orlando (feigning disinterest, don’t want to mess with their core). LeBron takes this as a slight and wants on Orlando badly. The Magic play possum but invariably comply. Cleveland gets a goody bag that includes Jameer, Rashard and any other asset the team has.
- Okay, Simmons! I’m hearing the New York Knicks chants, now.
- LeBron going strong in the paint for two straight possessions. He has eight all of a sudden. Then an aggressive rebound on the other end.
- James trips Rondo very clearly in front of a ref. He’s arguing because it’s his second foul and he’ll have to exit. Rondo definitely drew contact there. It’s unclear who initiated it. Probably should’ve been a no-call, but it’s a very smart play by the Celtics’ point guard.
- Mo Williams, who entered for LeBron, drains a quick three and brings the Cavs within one. 23-22. These scenarios are premature.
- Hey, look! It’s JJ Hickson. He’s still on the Cavs. Remember when Cleveland wouldn’t trade him for Amare because he was playing so well, then decided not to play him for an entire playoff series and their whole team collapsed? I do. Ah. Good times.
- 25-22, Celtics at the end of one.
- No LeBron, Jamison or Shaq to start the period. The lineup is Williams, West, Moon, Varejao and Ilgauskas. If you’re wondering where the offense is going to come from, the answer is this: From deep inside their hearts. Or, probably, nowhere at all. But maybe deep inside their hearts.
- Rajon Rondo on a shrunken Dr. J up-and-under plus-one. Serious filth. Dirty, dirty, serious filth. Remember NBA Street? The video game? Just like that. 28-23.
- Jesus Shuttlesworth throws it down the hardest he has in his pious, 2010-year-old life. He’s fouled on the way down. 31-23 Celtics.
- LeBron reenters. No s**t.
- Rondo is running again. Tony Allen is finally figuring out his role in the NBA: The world’s best fast-break trailer. He receives a pass at the free-throw line and lays it off back rim without taking a dribble. 33-23, Celtics.
- Timeout Cavs. Time for LeBron to put his Serious Hat on. If he doesn’t stem the tide right now, they should start printing orange-and-white jerseys with “NEW YORK” and a 6 on them.
- Well, uh, that’s a good start. Strong, sweeping drive to the bucket. He gets a bucket plus a foul.
- The “New York Knicks” chants are deafening. Hey journalism teachers who told me that no one cares what writers have to say anymore: Where are you now?
- Seriously impressive Cavs run here. They’ve got to slow down the pace of this game to take the ball out of Rondo’s hands and get the fans out of it. Big Z just set up in the mid-high post and floated a behind-the-back pass to Jamario Moon for a bucket and a foul.
- If there was a Six Flags ride called “NBA Officiating: The Microcosm,” it would be this series of events: LeBron is called for a travel. It’s the right call, but I’ve never seen them call him on it until right now. For consistency’s sake, it shouldn’t have been called. On the other end, there’s a block-charge call that’s clearly a block on the Cavs. They call a charge. Obviously.
Everybody get your picture of yourself with your mouth agape on the descent at the kiosk.
- Rondo with another beautiful move. It’s like And 1: The Playoff Tour with him tonight. 37-31.
- Another nice set play that gets Andy V. a free bucket. That needs to continue happening so that LeBron isn’t spent by the fourth quarter.
- Rondo to a wide-open KG for a dunk. Somebody was lost on a switch. Rondo has 10 points and six assists. James has 12 points, six rebounds and three assists. They’re canceling each other out, but the Celtics also have a team that’s not just bit-pieces struggling to figure out their role in the second round of the playoffs.
- Rondo hits a jumpshot from 20 feet on a broken play. It’s that kind of night, kids. 41-36, Celtics.
- All that said, you’d figure the Cavs were down by 20, body language-wise. They look defeated.
- Shaq is at the line, all of a sudden, with the chance to give the Cavs the lead.
- He makes one. 41-41. Remember when I said that this one was probably going to be a classic? It’s going to be a classic.
- Cavs got the lead! Shaq on a Mo WIlliams dump-off. 43-42. LeBron’s in the game, but he’s not the focus.
- Off-season Scenario #2: LeBron stays in Cleveland. Only New York cries.
- Holy s–t! Mo Williams has 18 points! That’s the quietest 18 points I’ve ever seen. He’s 6-of-9 from the field.
- This crowd is not at all dejected by this run. Boston crowds are usually bipolar and hurt the cause beyond repair when the other team is rolling. You’d never get the feeling they’re down by a point right now.
- Celtics bigs, especially Perk, are fighting to get the C’s through this run. Pretty smart, old-school coaching by Doc right now.
- This Cavs run is directly tied Paul Pierce getting his third foul earlier in the quarter. He came out, the team collapsed.
- Rondo reenters. Rondo to Allen on a pretty pass again. Allen throws it down.
- Shaq gets an extra free throw, which he makes. The ol’ lane violation: Happens every possession; only called when refs feel like it. 47-47.
- Rondo’s running with three fouls right now, too.
- Tony “I’ve Been The Trailer This Whole Time, I’ve Never Been The Car, Never Ever Been The Car” Allen with the sickest in-traffic slam of the series. Welcome to the pull-out section of our magazine, Mr. Allen. That thing hurt my feelings. 51-49, Celtics. And that’s how the half will end.
- Off-Season Scenario from the Moon #1: The Jazz win the #1 pick in the draft, courtesy of the Knicks. They offer John Wall (let’s be real here) and anybody else the Cavs want, except for Deron Williams. For some reason, LeBron forgets that Utah has no black people in it and signs off on this. The Jazz win four consecutive NBA titles and America is confused.
- The More You Know *******: Mo Williams has 20 on 7-10 shooting,with 4 assists (4 TO) and 3 rebounds.
Rajon Rondo has 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting, 7 assists (4 TO) and 3 steals, and all of your swooning little hearts.
Tony Allen has 10 on 3-of-7, but most of those points were noisy.
And this LeBron James guy has come out of nowhere 12 points on 4 of 12 shooting, 5 assists (4 TO) and 6 boards. No one was even paying attention to this guy!
- Crazy good start for the Cavs. Just textbook. Five straight, capped with a Parker 3. 54-51, and LeBron gets to the line right away on a dive cut.
- The crowd is unenthused. The New York Knicks chants are going to keep this guy in Cleveland. And, since the Cavs aren’t in the Atlantic, that might be exactly what you want.
- Right down to KG on the low-block. This is like when David Robinson got old and super crafty around the rim, but he’s much more aggressive. 55 up, kids! We’ve got a barnburner.
- We’ve got a live one! Perk and Shaq get tangled up. Perk takes serious offense and elbows Shaq. Double techs and a foul on Perkins. You’ve really got to applaud the officiating in this game so far. It’s chippy but not Malice-at-the-Palace-level. This is exactly where you want to be on a night like tonight.
- What a beautiful pass by LeBron, behind-the-back falling out of bounds to a wide-open Shaq for a dunk. 57-57.
- Lots of action and not many breaks. We’re quickly seven minutes into this period.
- Another KG turnaround for two. He’s the best player on the floor tonight. He has 16. 60-57, Celtics.
- The “New York Knicks” chants are getting to LeBron. He’s 2-of-4 from the line this half. 60-58.
- Foul roundup: Perkins has 4 (Rasheed just replaced him), Pierce and Rondo have 3 (and have since midway through the second).
- Andy V. is very upset at a no-call on an apparent swipe, and he’s probably right. He’s called for a travel. THIS IS A NOTE FROM THE FUTURE: This play wound up being pivotal.
- Paul Pierce hits an enormous three. KG hits a follow-up jumper. It’s so loud in here, you can’t hear the announcer call the Cleveland timeout. 67-58, Celtics.
- What you got, LeBron? This is your time.
- Off-Season Scenario #223: LeBron goes to Chicago. There’s no sign-and-trade. The Cavs get nothing. Finally, some help.
- LeBron goes coast-to-coast and flips in a bucket over his shoulder plus a foul. Dude is special. 67-61, Celtics.
- Rasheed hits a three from the corner at the best possible moment. Remember when the media said he’d step up when the C’s needed him to and we all laughed for months? 70-61, Celtics.
- Pierce for three from the other corner. 73-61. That, children, may have been the death knell.
- The Celtics fans are upset someone called a foul that was, in fact, a foul during a run. How dare you, referees! (Seriously, they’re doing a pretty tremendous job today. Wanna know how I knew that was going to happen? I barely know who any of them are.)
- Mo Williams takes an immediate foot-on-the-line-two at the top of the key and drains it. This might be his best game as a Cavalier and it still might not matter. Mo has 22. The Celtics lead 75-67.
- Where are you LeBron?
- James goes to the basket. He’s stripped by Tony Allen and Big Baby. Allen sprints to the other end of the floor and gets to the line for two. This is a guy who I assumed would be filler in the Eddie House-for-Nate Robinson trade and who I watched dribble the ball up by his shoulders while I wondered aloud why he wasn’t cut. He might not be outplaying LeBron right now, but it’s close.
- The quarter ends with a 76-67 Boston lead. LeBron, are you there? Are you there LeBron? We’re calling for you. Why won’t you wake up LeBron? You need to wake up. Are you there LeBron? Are you there? Why are you asleep?
- Rondo beats everyone, as always, to the basket. Two more. He then steals an inbounds pass off of a foul call the next possession. He’s everything we wanted Andrei Kirilenko to be. 78-67, Celtics.
- Hi, LeBron. He hits a three. From the top of the key. With 18 seconds left on the shotclock. Urgency. 78-71, Celtics.
- LeBron again. Same place. Same time. It’s so lovely that you’re awake. Would you like some tea?
- 78-74, Celtics. Just like that. Timeout.
- LeBron has 23, 15 boards and 8 assists with 9:34 left. I’m going to guess that this is about the time you stop fast-forwarding when you see this game on ESPN Classic.
- Doc is practically in the paint, still coaching Rondo out of this timeout.
- They’re doubling KG on the touch with whoever else is in the paint. This time, Andy V. is the primary defender and Shaq is the help.
- Rondo gets some MVP chants as he goes to the line. But he misses both. Old habits die hard.
- Older skills live longer: Rondo snares a steal and goes coast to coast, around a defender for a layup.
- Transition Rondo-to-Pierce three. 83-74, Celtics.
- LeBron has trouble advancing the ball past half-court in order to call timeout. He eventually gets it and slams the ball in frustration. Timeout Cleveland. There is not one person standing in this building.
- This is unbelievable. Everyone — security guards, elevator operators, arena photographers — have all left their post to watch the final minutes here. They’re all just standing around in awe of this. They know this is special.
- LeBron had Rondo on a switch and had position in the post. He passed it to Antawn Jamison in the corner. He’s nodding off.
- Mo Williams has two points this half. He just missed an open free-throw line jumper in rhythm.
- Rasheed for three. KG steal to Rondo. Back to KG for a dunk from 2003. This game is over. 88-74.
- The jumbotron just showed a camera zoomed in on LeBron’s leg. His tattoo says “HISTORY.” Prophetic.
- Rondo hits a free-throw-line floater off the glass. Really. It’s that kind of night. 90-76, Celtics.
- Everyone in this press box is talking about where LeBron is going. It’s over. We’re all just wondering if Mike Brown will give him a courtesy sub, and when that’ll happen.
- Everyone in the crowd now. “New York Knicks.” It’s just a sweet lullaby at this point.
- Anthony Parker hits a three. Wait up: Single digits, fellas! 91-83.
- The crowd is getting antsy because Rasheed just took back-to-back fadeaway jumpshots with time left on the clock. If I was Doc, I would be apoplectic.
- Ray Allen replaces Tony Allen with 2:16 left. Rasheed is mysteriously still in this game. Rajon Rondo is not-so-mysteriously missing some free throws. 92-83, Celtics.
- LeBron gets to the basket very easily. 92-85, Cavs. There is so much life.
- 1:36 left. Doc Rivers takes a timeout to ease his team down after an offensive rebound. The Celtics will roll with Rondo-Ray Allen-Pierce-Garnett-Wallace. The Cavs will ride LeBron-LeBron-LeBron-LeBron-LeBron until it dies or quits or can’t do it anymore, and that’s why he’s leaving, probably for New York.
- Doc goes right down to KG, who hits a mini-hook over Varejao. Brilliant. 94-85.
- LeBron immediately throws it away. This one is over. 94-85. The Celtics advance.
- Off-Season Scenario #1: LeBron goes to New York. Cleveland gets nothing. It was because of tonight.
- – Tony Allen: “I had an assignment. They told me I needed to key in on Lebron. The goal was not for me to stop LeBron, but to slow him up. I think I accomplished that.
- More Tony Allen: “Tom Thibadeau told me I needed to have tenacity, I needed to be tough. I told him, ‘I know all about tenacity.’ You know, I’m a firm believer. I’ll just say his name 1,000 times: Tom Thibadeau.”
- Doc Rivers on believing in his team, even in the rough patches: “I saw this in training camp. I know it sounds crazy, but I knew in training camp.”
- Paul Pierce on how this stacks up in his all-time greatest victories: “I’m not that proud of this. Our goal is the championship. We didn’t set out this season to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers. We set out to win an NBA Championship.”
- The best quote of the night? It goes to KG, who cut off a question from a reporter to say this: “Man, there’s a lot of people in this (press conference) room. I haven’t seen this man people in this room since ’08,” he says, then pauses for effect.
We know what you mean by “hm,” KG. We know.