It was an important game. Not a critical game ... not a must-win game ... not a do-or-die game ... but an important one all the same. A road contest against their largest rival, the one who eliminated them in last year's playoffs. And the one who probably will stand in their way at some point during this year's postseason.
And with all of that, the Cavs laid an egg.
Playing with an unusual lack of energy, the Cavs were trounced by the Celtics last night, 105-94, at the TD Banknorth Garden. With the loss, the Cavs now stand at 48-13 on the season - still the best record in the Eastern Conference, but just barely (the Celtics now sport a 49-14 record).
The Cavs never led (aside from a couple of inconsequential two-point leads in the opening minutes). They kept it close for most of the way - they trailed by only two points at the half (45-43), and stayed with the Celtics through the first half of the third quarter - but then they did the polite thing, and made the sellout Boston crowd happy by rolling over and playing dead.
Mo Williams led the Cavs with 26 points; LeBron James had 21. (Are the walls in the visitors' locker room at the Garden made from Kryptonite? LeBron has had some pretty awful games in Beantown.) Paul Pierce scored 29 points for the Celtics, and Leon Powe (yes, that would be the Leon Powe whose middle name is "Freaking") came off the bench to score 20 points and grab 11 boards.
It's the NBA. Where "I spent the entire day looking forward to this?" happens. (It's also where "the players didn't go all out, so why should the writer?" happens. This game review is gonna be shorter than usual.)
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
Last Year, This Would Have Been A Twenty Point Loss: If I had to count on one Cavalier to make a shot to save my life, it might just be Williams. I sure as hell would bet on him in a game of HORSE. He made more than half his shots from the field, including four of five from beyond the arc. He is the most accurate perimeter shooter the Cavs have had since ... dare I say Mark Price? (I say that knowing full well that I may draw the wrath of the Milt Palacio Fan Club.)
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
But It Still Was An Eleven Point Loss: In no particular order, here are the Things That Sucked last night:
NOT THAT YOU ASKED, BUT...
Department of Just Sayin': Last night's game marked the Cleveland debut (2008-09 edition) of Joe Smith, who was signed by the Cavs earlier in the week. Many Cavs fans have built Smith up into some kind of superstar - a player whose presence on this team basically guarantees a championship.
Last night, Smith had seven points and five rebounds in approximately 20 minutes of playing time. Not great, not terrible, just a decent contribution off the bench. But to those of you expecting more, take a look at Smith's statistics. This season, he is averaging ... seven points and five rebounds in approximately 20 minutes of playing time. In other words, last night's Joe Smith is who we should expect to see every night.
Department of Excellent Questions: It is always fun to watch a game with a chatty five-year-old girl who has no concept of "bedtime". That was the situation last night, as the Official Daughter of GBS took in the action. (More accurately, she talked nonstop while her father tried to take in the action.) Give her credit - she can recognize many of the Cavs, and is even learning to blurt, "get that weak stuff outta here!" with every blocked shot.
As much as I couldn't make that stuff up, I especially could not make up her reaction to an interview with Delonte West. She watched Delonte answer a couple of questions. Then she asked, "Daddy, what language does he speak?"
You know, honey, I'm really not sure.
WHAT LIES AHEAD:
There isn't much time to sit and stew about the loss. Miami rolls into Quicken Loans Arena tonight to face the Cavs. After that, it's the final West Coast road swing of the season, with stops in Los Angeles (relax, it's to face the Clippers), Phoenix, and Sacramento.