THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Bob Ryan

These misses messed with our heads

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / May 7, 2008

Anyone have the name of a good fumigator? They're going to need one before they allow anyone back inside the Garden for another basketball game.

Whew. Eeeeeewww. Yuck. If that's what the Celtics and Cavaliers have in store for us, maybe it's time to resume work on that stamp collection.

Missed shots. Turnovers. Just plain bad plays. Have I mentioned the turnovers? No one actually won this game. Someone had to not lose it. To the immense relief of the nightly sellout crowd of 18,624, the Celtics were the fortunate non-losers and thus lead this series, one game to none.

The 76-72 final score tells you just about all you really need to know.

The game was awash with negative numbers. You could start anywhere, but here's one eyebrow-raiser: LeBron James shot 2 for 18 (and don't forget the 10 turnovers). So how was Cleveland even in the game?

Perhaps it's because Paul Pierce shot 2 for 14, missing every shot he attempted longer than a foot. Ray Allen was 0 for 4. The mathematics did not elude Mr. Pierce.

"We played him [LeBron] to a standoff," reasoned the Celtics captain. "Combined, we shot 2 for 18, also."

The Cavaliers shot 30.7 percent (23 for 75), but they were in the game until the final 10 seconds, largely because the Celtics were completely self-destructive. It's not often you win an NBA game when you have a mere eight more field goals than turnovers (29-21), but that's what happened last night. Eliminate the stupid turnovers and the 24-second violations and the Celtics cruise home and the fans wouldn't have to wait until it was over to satisfy their Gino fix.

The coaches are always required to put the happy spin on these types of disasters. You know they're going to attribute this mess to great playoff defense. Cleveland's Mike Brown obviously read the manual.

"It was a tough, defensive-mind-set game," he said. "Both teams came out and competed. Boston just happened to come out on top tonight. They had one more stop than us."

Well, yes and no. The game did come down to a Cleveland possession with the Cavaliers trailing by 2 following a very nice Kevin Garnett spinning move to the hoop on overmatched Joe Smith with 21.4 seconds left. That broke a 72-72 tie created by a Zydrunas Ilgauskas tip-in of a James miss with 39 seconds left.

James was 2 for 18, but there was never any question about who would get the ball. After he dribbled the clock down, Big Z came out to create a high pick-and-roll (what a shock). LeBron took it to the hoop on James Posey and he arrived on the right side with a very good look at the basket.

Most nights, that baby's going in. But this was an absolutely aberrational evening for the young superstar. The ball just would not drop. Posey grabbed the rebound, got fouled, and made them both to put the game away.

So you can call it a "stop" if you like, but be assured that LeBron James was in control of his destiny on that play.

The Cavaliers never really had anything resembling an NBA offense. They began the game shooting 1 for 8, the lone basket a James transition layup. They started clangin' 'em up, and never really stopped.

Boston played an acceptable first quarter offensively, but that was it. Ahead by 10 (25-15) after one, the Celtics allowed the Cavs back into the game, and by the time the lead was down to 32-30, the Celtics already had 11 turnovers, so never mind the fact that the Cavaliers were down by 2 despite shooting 8 for 31.

I know, I know. This doesn't seem possible. You really had to be there. Not that you'd really want to be.

Give Celtics coach Doc Rivers credit for being able to put this thing in perspective. "It looked like the Knicks-Heat series for about 20 minutes out there," he declared. In NBA circles, that's about as low a verbal blow as there is.

The negative numbers just never quit coming. The Celtics went a carryover stretch of 10:49 from the end of the second quarter into the third with just two field goals, a Garnett dunk and a Garnett layup. The Cavaliers took a 51-45 lead with 4:59 remaining in the third and didn't score another field goal for another 6 1/2 minutes, and when it was over they were only down by 1 (56-55). It was just bad basketball, both ways.

The Celtics' badness maxed out in one particularly dreadful stretch in the fourth quarter. Leading, 68-65, the next three possessions featured: a 24-second violation; Garnett falling down en route to the hoop leading to a jump ball and a missed Pierce jumper; and a wild Garnett shot off the glass that led to yet another 24-second violation when the rebound was knocked out of bounds with just one second left on the shot clock.

But KG redeemed himself, nailing a 20-footer that tied the game at 70 with 1:17 left and then scoring on that strong move to the hoop to break the final tie.

This enabled Pierce to have a little fun at his own expense, and Allen's, too. "You know," he said, "I was looking at it that I can't play any worse than this, and we got a win. I look at it as it's all uphill. Again, Ray can't play as bad as he did, or LeBron, so I think we're setting ourselves up for an exciting series, man. Obviously, it was ugly, but I look forward to getting even better and better."

Let's get serious. When LeBron goes 2 for 18, you'd damn well better win the game. Or not lose it. The Kid will not be playing like this again.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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