It may be early February as well as 40 degrees and wet outside, but inside Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday night it felt like late May.
The Cavs and Celtics got together for a basketball game Tuesday night that had all the intensity and drama of a playoff game despite both teams being short key contributors. The result was an entertaining and frantic 114-113 Cavaliers victory.
The Celtics were missing Kevin Garnett and the Cavs were short Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao before the game even started. By game’s end Drew Gooden was also gone with a strained groin he suffered halfway through the 3rd quarter and Ira Newble looked like he’d been hit with a Kelly Pavlik straight right hand.
The two teams, despite playing shorthanded, ran themselves ragged in the first half playing very little defense and missing very few open shots. The Celtics took a 66-64 lead into the half but the 10-minute rest period was nowhere near long enough to allow either team to maintain the torrid pace of the first half.
Both teams buckled down defensively in the second half but the Cavs had a little more hustle and size to throw at the Celtics down the stretch. Huge efforts from LeBron James (33 points, 9 rebounds, 12 assists), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (21 points,10 rebounds, 5 blocks) and Larry Hughes (18, 3 rebounds, 6 assists) carried the Cavs to a big win. Not to be lost in the fun was a huge lift provided by Newble who scored 15 points, 9 in the first quarter. Newble’s scoring night ended with a beautiful baseline drive and crushing dunk with a minute and a half left in the game when the Cavs were desperately in need of a bucket to keep the Celtics at bay.
A sell-out crowd got their money’s worth watching James go against Paul Pierce and the rest of the Boston roster. So let’s take a look at…
Depending on how long it takes for Gooden’s strained groin to heal, the Cavs are in serious trouble as far as depth and their rotation is concerned. This is a team that tries to get 30 points and 15 rebounds out of Gooden, Varejao and Pavlovic every night and it’s never easy when they’re healthy. It’s impossible if they’re not on the floor. Asking James to give even more may be more reasonable than expecting Dwayne Jones and Donyell Marshall to step up and provide those numbers. But Mike Brown has to be cognizant that his star has only has so much in his tank and you don’t want to completely drain that tank as you approach playoff time.
There is no way to justify allowing a guard of that size to regularly attack the basket without seeing him sprawled all over the floor on a couple trips down the lane. Rondo either scored, got fouled or dished to off a teammate repeatedly in the first half and the early stage of the second half. At some point one Cavalier or another has got to take control of the lane and dish out some punishment to the little guys who dare venture down there. No one is advocating cheap shots or dirty play, but you can’t allow little guys that many free runs at your rim.