For one quarter Friday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers looked like the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The LeBron James- and Kevin Love-led Cavs shredded the Boston Celtics for 12 minutes, making a 14-point halftime deficit disappear and building a boatload of momentum entering the game’s final frame.
Then, coach David Blatt called off the dogs. James and Love sat for the entire fourth quarter, and the Celtics left Quicken Loans Arena with a massively important 99-90 win.
Blatt’s decision to rest his stars — James played just 26 minutes, his lowest total since, coincidentally, the last time Cleveland hosted Boston last month — was a blessing for Brad Stevens’ club. While the Cavs had nothing to lose or gain Friday night after already locking up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, the win allowed reduced the Celtics’ magic number for clinching the most unexpected of playoff berths to two.
Plus, Stevens already has seen far too much of James and Love.
“They don’t have to show me what they’re capable of,” Stevens told reporters after the game. “I saw it firsthand. First of all, I watched it on TV for years, and I saw it firsthand last time we were (in Cleveland). We took a pretty good punch in that third quarter.”
— Celtics guard Evan Turner, who dished out a career-high 13 assists in the win, spoke after the game about how the Celtics “dominated” the first half. He’s not wrong: Boston did not trail in the first or second quarter and led by as many as 16.
“We were knew they were going to make a (run),” Turner told CSNNE’s Abby Chin. “They kept getting great calls, but we were dominating them the whole game. So, we knew if we just kept playing the right way, we’d be able to beat them if we kept running and pushing the pace and setting the tempo, and that’s what we did.”
The ever-quotable Turner also gave his take on James sitting out the final 12 minutes:
Turner on James not playing the fourth quarter, joking: "I really didn't care. I threw away my LeBron poster after high school."—
Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 11, 2015
— LeBron actually struggled with his shot in the Cavs’ big third quarter, scoring four points on 1-for-4 shooting and bungling what would have been a vicious dunk.
— It sounds like there’s a strong possibility James will not play Sunday when the Cavs visit TD Garden.
gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) April 11, 2015
Keep in mind, though, that most speculated the MVP candidate would not play Friday, either.
— Forward Jared Sullinger logged 19 minutes for the Celtics, the most he’s played in a game since returning from a foot fracture that sidelined him for nearly two months. Sullinger had issues finishing around the rim (2-for-7 from the floor), but he grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and was showed some encouraging signs on the defensive end.
“I think that finishing thing is kind of the next step probably for him, just because he’s been out for so long,” Stevens said. “He’s still catching his wind as he’s getting up and down the court, I don’t think there’s any question about it. (Friday) was the most minutes he’s played, and I thought defensively he did a really good job. I played him more in large part because I felt like we needed his rebounding, and he did a great job on the glass as he usually does.
— The Cavs held a moment of silence before tipoff for college basketball player and Ohio native Lauren Hill, who died Friday of cancer at age 19.
A moment of silence isn't enough for her. Not nearly enough. "She was 19" were three poisonous words today. http://t.co/I294Ng6LDz—
Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) April 10, 2015
— Stevens had a bit of fun Friday morning when he was asked during an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Zolak & Bertrand” whether he follows the out-of-town scores.
“I’m all over the scoreboard,” the coach said. “Spieth is up by four strokes, right?”
Speith, as those following The Masters will know, is 21-year-old golfer Jordan Spieth, who cruised through his first two rounds at Augusta.
— Speaking of Augusta:
Brian Scalabrine gives JR Smith a shot for wearing a big green shirt to game vs Celts. JR smiles and says, "Hey, it's the Masters." #birdie—
Steve Bulpett (@SteveBHoop) April 10, 2015
— Another playoff hopeful bit the dust Friday. With their loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Hornets officially were eliminated from playoff contention.
Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images
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