Before last night's game, Eric Williams walked into the Celtics' locker room and watched Jim O'Brien write down his game plan. O'Brien turned to Williams and asked, "Eric, did I forget anything?" Williams scanned the lists labeled offense and defense. He turned to O'Brien and replied, "You forgot one thing: Don't let me get to the middle." O'Brien made sure he reminded the Celtics of exactly that before tipoff.
Following last night's game, O'Brien walked into the visitors' locker room, surprising many of the Cavaliers. O'Brien found as many of his former players as he could (there are now five former Celtics with Cleveland) and wished the newest Cavaliers luck with the remainder of their season.
From pregame preparation to postgame congratulations, the contest featured teams more familiar with each other than they would probably like. With the notable exception of Ricky Davis, the players involved in the Dec. 15 deal between Boston and Cleveland were glad to get past the teams' first post-trade meeting. The Celtics dismissed the Cavaliers with ease, 107-82, posting their largest margin of victory of the season. It was also the Cavaliers' largest margin of defeat in 2003-04.
But the game was by no means an accurate measure of which team got the better end of the deal. Cleveland is vastly improved. Boston is still searching for consistency. The victory marked the first time the Celtics have won consecutive games since the trade that sent Williams (8 points), Tony Battie (10 points, season-high 13 rebounds), and Kedrick Brown (9 points) to Cleveland in exchange for Davis, Chris Mihm (4 points, 8 rebounds), and Michael Stewart. The Celtics also returned to .500 (19-19) for the first time since Dec. 31.
"I'm glad to get this one behind us," said O'Brien. "We had a really solid effort on both ends of the court. I thought we played a pretty consistent brand of basketball for four quarters. And I was very pleased with the way we handled that basketball game. It was different [facing former teammates], but once we got into the game, it didn't matter. They're just the enemy."
By holding the Cavaliers to 33 percent shooting and moving the ball well enough to record 21 assists, the Celtics were able to establish and maintain a sizable lead through most of the game. Less than eight minutes into the game, Mark Blount turned a Paul Pierce pass into a dunk to cap a 14-2 run and push Boston ahead, 24-13.
After falling behind by 14 points early in the second quarter, the Cavaliers staged a 10-2 run and closed within 6 points on a 20-footer from LeBron James. Boston reestablished a double-digit lead down the stretch in the second and it stayed that way until Dajuan Wagner hit a 12-footer, leaving the home team with a 52-43 advantage entering halftime.
"It was sort of weird matching up with [Williams] and with him and Tony out there, knowing that these are guys that not only were your teammates but were your friends," said Pierce (30 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists). "But it's a game and you've got to go out there and play against them."
Davis, who wished the Celtics matched up with the Cavaliers "three more times, four more times" this season, probably enjoyed the blowout more than anyone at the soldout FleetCenter. A 24-11 run capped by a 3-pointer from Davis pushed the Boston lead beyond the 20-point mark for the first time with 2:28 remaining in the third. The fourth quarter became a mere formality.
Davis posted his best performance since arriving in Boston with 16 points in 28 minutes off the bench. When he was not on the court scoring or helping hold James to 19 points, Davis wildly waved a white towel. During timeouts with the Celtics enjoying a comfortable lead, he had a handshake, high-five, or hug for every teammate he could reach.
"I was real pumped up," said Davis. "I was too pumped, almost had to calm myself down a little bit, so I didn't go too wild or too crazy. [O'Brien] waited a little bit [to put me in]. Let me chill out, then I could go in and handle my business."
Now, O'Brien hopes the Celtics can take care of business as the season progresses.
"I think [director of basketball operations] Danny Ainge feels good about the group that he's put together," said O'Brien. "I believe that he'll let us try to see what this group is all about, but who knows?"