Final: Cavaliers 101, Celtics 93. What a disappointing fourth quarter for the Celtics, who were never able to match the Cavs' energy down the stretch. Hard to believe the Celtics led for most of this game — they just had no chance when push came to shove.
The Cavs have won the all-important Game 1, getting a 35-point, seven-assist, seven-rebound performance from LeBron James and cruising to victory in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics led for the first three quarters, but that's worth nothing in the end. All that matters is prevailing when the clock strikes zero, and in that respect, the C's are down 1-0.
Fourth quarter, 22.0 seconds, Cavs 101-93: LeBron for three. Game over.
Fourth quarter, 41.4 seconds, Cavs 98-93: Huge stop for the Cavaliers. Kendrick Perkins can't make anything happen down low, and he loses it out of bounds. The Celtics have run out of steam, folks.
Fourth quarter, 1:02, Cavs 98-93: The Celtics are just missing every shot imaginable in crunch time. Seven of their last eight attempts from the field have been unsuccessful. And they still have no answer for Shaq.
Time is ticking away for the Celtics now. They need a couple of huge clutch shots.
Fourth quarter, 2:17, Cavs 94-93: The Cavs try to bury Boston with a huge 3, but it doesn't happen. First one miss from LeBron, then another from Mo Williams. The Celtics won't die that easily, guys.
Fourth quarter, 3:00, Cavs 94-91: Big sequence from LeBron James. First a tenacious drive to the basket for a lay-in and a three-point Cleveland lead, then a big rejection of a driving layup from Paul Pierce.
LeBron has quietly piled up 30 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Just another day at the office when you're the King.
Fourth quarter, 4:30, Cavs 92-91: Another ridiculous hard hit on Rajon Rondo, this one from the big man Shaq. Tough night to be Rondo.
Good night for nail-biting games in Cleveland, huh? Across the street from the Q, the Indians and Twins are tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 11th inning. Quite a sports evening in this city.
Fourth quarter, 5:02, 90-90: Kendrick Perkins has put the Celtics back in this game. Five points in the first 42 minutes of this game, four in the 43rd minute. He's come to life.
Fourth quarter, 5:50, Cavs 90-88: Nice 3 from LeBron James, but that's no excuse to get complacent and give Kendrick Perkins an easy bucket on the next possession. Mental slip-up from the Cavs there.
Fourth quarter, 6:49, Cavs 87-86: Just look at all these mismatches. Glen Davis guarding Shaq? Rondo guarding LeBron? No wonder the Celtics look overmatched.
Thanks to a clutch 3 from Paul Pierce, though, the Celtics are still nipping at the Cavs' heels.
If Boston keeps its heads held high and keep taking good shots, the C's have got a chance in this thing.
Fourth quarter, 8:46, Cavs 85-81: Kevin Garnett is starting to show fatigue in the fourth quarter. If we were still in the opening minutes, there's no way Anderson Varejao blocks that shot.
A tired KG is not an efficient KG. The Celtics are in trouble.
Fourth quarter, 9:33, Cavs 85-81: LeBron James might have a strained right elbow and bone bruise, but he's also got that "I'm King James, and you'd have to be crazy to bet against me in the fourth quarter" look in his eye.
That look is mighty scary. So is LeBron's mid-range jump shot.
Fourth quarter, 10:29, 81-81: If I didn't know any better, I'd say this game was coming down to nothing more than Glen Davis and J.J. Hickson trading baskets.
Don't worry — I know better. But you've got to admit the two youngsters are fun to watch.
End of third quarter, Cavs 79-78: Wow. The Cavaliers have come all the way back.
The Celtics led this game for the entirety of the second and third quarters, but LeBron James makes a driving layup to beat the buzzer at the end of the third, and the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena is launched into hysterics. The Cavs are hitting on all cylinders in the second half, and the Celtics just look tired and lazy.
Boston's going to need a good old-fashioned dose of Rajon Rondo energy to make another push. Rondo hasn't scored in the last eight-plus minutes, and the C's need him to carry them back into the lead.
Third quarter, 3:32, Celtics 71-66: A couple of Boston turnovers turn into a couple of Mo Williams buckets, and the momentum has swung decidedly in Cleveland's direction. The Celtics' lead is now hanging by a thread.
Mo has scored the last eight points for the Cavaliers in this third quarter, including (gasp!) a dunk from the diminutive Cleveland point guard.
Rajon Rondo has been outstanding on the offensive end (24 points now), but he's got to play tougher defense, too. It's a tough assignment for the Boston youngster.
Third quarter, 6:02, Celtics 69-58: Ray Allen has officially come to life for the Celtics, knocking down big 3s on back-to-back possessions to push the Boston lead back to double digits and keep it there.
LeBron is getting fired up and has started jacking up treys himself. Can't help but sense a little bit of desperation on the Cavs' end, even this early in the second half. They've figured out by now that these Celtics aren't going to beat themselves.
Third quarter, 9:39, Celtics 56-51: A sloppy start to quarter number three for the Celtics — they're not finishing at the rim, not hitting open jumpers, and not doing much of anything to stop LeBron or Shaquille O'Neal.
The C's are starting to look lazy on the defensive end, haphazardly fouling LeBron and Shaq rather than making a concerted effort to stop them. That's not working too well. Cleveland has closed the Boston lead from 11 to five.
Halftime, Celtics 54-43: You can knock the wind out of Rajon Rondo, but you can't knock the heart or the energy out of him. Rondo gets knocked to the floor hard by a Cavalier tag team, but he hops right back up and knocks down two free throws. The Celtics plow on.
It's an 11-point halftime lead for the Celtics, led by 19 points from Rajon Rondo on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. These C's are dangerous.
LeBron's got 14 points for Cleveland, but the Celtics are making him work for it. King James alone might not have what it takes in this one.
Second quarter, 3:32, Celtics 46-38: The Celtics are just a matchup nightmare for Cleveland. Who'd have thunk it?
KG is too big and too long for Antawn Jamison. Rondo is too fast and too agile for Mo Williams. The Celtics are just thoroughly outplaying the Cavaliers in this first half — it's no longer just a matter of hitting shots. This game is all Boston.
Rondo has game highs of 15 points and eight assists. It's not even halftime yet.
Second quarter, 6:07, Celtics 38-33: The Celtics' bench in this game so far: four points, eight fouls. That's not too pretty.
But it hasn't seemed to matter. The C's haven't needed the services of Rasheed or Big Baby — they're getting all the inside scoring they need from KG and from the penetration of their guards, Allen and Rondo.
This is Celtics basketball at its finest: moving the ball beautifully, playing smart and unselfish basketball, finishing with confidence. The Celtics have led for the entire second quarter, and they don't appear to be looking back.
Second quarter, 9:09, Celtics 30-22: A pair of former LSU Tigers are in early foul trouble. It's way, way too early for either Shaquille O'Neal or Glen Davis to have three personal fouls.
The Cavs have responded by getting significant minutes out of J.J. Hickson. The Celtics have meanwhile been forced to turn Rasheed Wallace into a low-post presence, an effort that's worked surprisingly well.
Rasheed appears to be trying harder than he has all year. He's working hard to get inside on both ends of the floor, both taking and defending the low-post shot.
The only problem? He now has three fouls of his own.
The Celtics might be in trouble.
End of first quarter, Celtics 26-20: An encouraging first quarter for the Celtics, no doubt. But you have to figure the Cavaliers will start hitting their shots sooner rather than later.
After 12 minutes of play, the Cavs are shooting just 30 percent as a team. And it's not as though they're getting bad looks — LeBron is effectively posting up smaller guys, and Antawn Jamison is taking open jumpers. But nothing's falling for Cleveland early.
The Celtics, meanwhile, are shooting 52.4 percent as a team, and they've gotten nine points already from Rajon Rondo, including a 3 on the final possession of the quarter. They're off to a solid start in Game 1.
First quarter, 3:10, Celtics 16-14: Both teams are starting to get their little guys involved. It's a lot of fun to watch.
For Cleveland, Mo Williams is using his impressive speed to drive the lane and get to the basket. For the Celtics, Rajon Rondo is benefiting from the Celtics' superior ball movement and sneaking to the hoop himself.
Rondo's been impressive in this game already, but you still get the impression that he's only scratching the surface of his potential. He's got a chance to take over this series with his speed and his flashy play.
First quarter, 6:13, Celtics 12-9: The Celtics are forced to go small early, with Kendrick Perkins leaving with a minor injury and the undersized Glen Davis taking his place. They haven't skipped a beat.
The quick, energetic Celtics have been able to create good looks inside against the sluggish Shaquille O'Neal, and it's led to a pile of early points. Paul Pierce has eight of them.
Who'd have thought that after the first six minutes of this one, it'd be the Celtics forcing the Cavaliers to match their energy? We had all assumed the opposite would be the case.
First quarter, 9:12, Celtics 6-4: Looks like the Celtics' offense early on is going to be all Paul Pierce, all the time.
The Celtics' captain has already had a few good looks — a shot in transition, a mid-range jumper on a pick- and-roll, a good look from 3-point range. Pierce gave the Celtics their early spark, then Ray Allen knocked down a long two to make it 6-4 Boston.
These C's are veterans. They don't look fazed by the challenge of the mighty Cavs.
7:30 p.m.: As expected, LeBron James is crying about his elbow not being 100 percent. But as expected, the Cavs' leader is ready to play anyway.
We're minutes away from tipoff at Quicken Loans Arena, with Game 1 between the Celtics and Cavaliers. The C's are fully healthy, and the Cavs … well, they might be. Hard to say until we see King James in action.
8 a.m.: The Celtics knew that if they wanted to win a championship again in 2010, they'd have to get through Cleveland again. And now's as good a time as ever.
The C's, fresh off a five-game series win over the Miami Heat in Round 1, have advanced to the semifinal round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and they've drawn a grudge match with the Cleveland Cavaliers, winners of 61 games and the top overall seed in the NBA playoffs.
This is Boston's first time opening a playoff series on the road in the era of the new Big Three. And opening in Cleveland, where the Cavs are 74-8 in the last two years, is not going to be easy.
But the Celtics have no time to run and hide. It's time for them to face their fear. Time to bring on LeBron James and the Cavs.