As the New Jersey Nets clear cap space (getting rid of Richard Jefferson’s contract in the trade for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons) the rumors and speculation of Lebron James in New York get louder. Lebron, a frequent visitor to NY, and lists it as his favorite city.
“My favorite borough? Brooklyn, said James. “Brooklyn is definitely a great place here in New York City, and some of my best friends are from Brooklyn, so I stick up for them.”
Among those friends is hip-hop icon Jay-Z, a close friend of James’ and partial owner of the Nets. Jay-Z helped orchestrate the 2010 relocation of the nets to Brooklyn; the first pro team that will play in the borough since the Dodgers in 1957.
James can opt out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Summer of 2010, and would become an unrestricted free agent. The future Brooklyn Nets would still need to move Zach Randolph, and either Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries, or Jamal Crawford to free up enough cap space to pay Lebron a max contract.
The Knicks would also be in a position to offer max money to Lebron, although they would not be ready until 2011.
After holding the Cleveland Cavaliers to only 72 points in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Final playoff series, the Boston Celtics defense came right back out to play shutting down Lebron and Co. again in their 89-73 Game 2 win at the TD Banknorth Garden yesterday evening. At home during the playoffs, Boston’s defense has now held opponents to an average of 75.5 points per game while they’ve averaged 95.7 per contest at the Garden.
The Celtics looked to be in trouble early, trailing by as many as 12 points midway through the first quarter. Cavalier’s center Zydrunas Ilgauskas led the early charge starting the game 6-6 from the floor, hitting mid-range jump shots with confidence on multiple occasions. After the1st quarter the Celtics trailed 24-17 and looked to be in for a long night.
That thought quickly evaporated into the rafters of the Garden as the Celtics bench came out in the 2nd quarter on a mission. They picked apart the Cavs defensively which sparked an offensive run in which they outscored Cleveland 13-3 during the first seven minutes of the quarter. The C’s bench would score 20 of the 27 points during the 2nd, putting the Celtics up at the half 44-36.
As the Celtics continued to ride the high wave of energy reigning down on them from their home court fans, the Cavaliers never were able to find the same rhythm from the first quarter. Lebron James’s offensive woes continued after going 2-18 in Game 1, he followed it up with a 6-24 shooting performance last night, and for the first time all season looked frustrated. The defensive tenacity of Paul Pierce and James Posey has been one of the main reasons for James’s struggles. He scored 21 points on the night, 9 coming from the free throw line.
“I’m a little shocked that he’s 8-for-42, but this is what we work on. We work on trying to contain him,” said Pierce, who also struggled in Game 1 going 2-for-14. “LeBron is what makes them go. And if we can somehow control him, we control their team. And with the help of the guys around me, we’ve been able to do that.”
While the Celtics continued to play great defense, their Big Three got back into the offensive swing of things after a poor showing in Game 1 where Kevin Garnett was forced to carry the load. In that game, Ray Allen went scoreless and Pierce only had 4 points but both were able to break out of it last night in the winning effort. Allen dropped 16 points and Pierce rebounded from his Game 1 performance scoring 19 on a 7-13 shooting display. Garnett chipped in with 13 points and 12 rebounds in his 32 minutes of action.
“It was good to see Ray get it going. I thought that lifted everybody up on our team,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who called the first several plays of the second half for Allen. “I made a concerted effort. I told the coaches at halftime, ‘We’re going to him over and over again. We’ve got to get him going.’”
The teams will now hit the road and travel to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4, with one squad hoping to end the series and the other wanting to extend it.
“Being down 0-2, that’s a tough hole to dig yourself out of. But if we want to win the series we’ve got to do it,” James said and noted that last year Cleveland went down 0-2 against Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals before winning four in a row to make it to the NBA Finals vs. San Antonio. “We’ve been in this situation before, and I’ve got to let them know that I’m not frustrated.”
His teammates must not be getting that message.
“He’s got to be frustrated,” Cavaliers guard Wally Szczerbiak said. “He’s such a good player. He puts so much on his shoulders.”
As the series shifts to Cleveland, the Celtics will hopefully pack their bags and bring along with them the same defensive intensity that they demonstrated in Games 1 and 2 in Boston. They already saw in Atlanta what can happen when the team relies too heavily on an offensive game, and lost three times in high scoring shoot-outs to the younger Hawks line-up. The key to having success on the road will be to continue to stress defense and shut down Lebron.
Easier said then done, but this Celtics line up looks more focused then ever on their quest for Green 17. Celtics Playoff tickets available for all potential games.
Going into last nights Eastern Conference Semi-Final playoff match up between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, all eyes were on team leaders Lebron James and Paul Pierce. Which superstar would have what it takes to guide their clubs to the victory? Who would step up and silence any doubters? Which player would rally their teammates for the best of seven series that looks to be a war?
As it turns out, neither ‘The King’ nor ‘The Truth’ had those answers in Game 1′s defensive battle that finished with a 76-72 Celtic victory in front of a sold out TD Banknorth Garden crowd.
Pierce was held to 4 points on 2-14 shooting from the field while Lebron struggled as well, netting 12 points on a dismal 2-18 performance from the floor, the 2nd worst display of his NBA career. James also had a season high 10 turnovers during his 39 minutes of action in the game. A big reason for his struggles was the defensive prowess of the Celtics 6th man, James Posey.
Posey, who was acquired during the off season to provide a defensive spark off the bench, did just that in last night’s playoff victory frustrating James whenever he touched the ball.
“You just try to take certain things away from him,” Posey said, “and make him work hard for everything.”
While Posey worked hard all night on defending Lebron, Kevin Garnett picked up the slack on the offensive end of the court dropping 28 points to lead all scorers. He nailed two clutch buckets over the last 90 seconds that would tie the game at 70-70 and then put the C’s ahead for good at 74-72 with 22 seconds left to play. His effort made up for the poor numbers Pierce and Ray Allen put up during the win. Allen was held scoreless for the first time in 852 games dating back to the 1997 season and only attempted 4 shots on the night, missing them all.
“This was two heavyweights, just body-punching,” said Garnett. “There was no finesse, no jabs, just an all-out, beat-down, defensive fight.”
Zydrunas Ilgauskas paced the Cavs contributing 22 points and 12 rebounds but as a team, the Cavs just could not overcome James’s offensive struggles. On the night, Cleveland shot .307 percent from the field (23-75). In their opening round series vs. the Washington Wizards, they were averaging a .431 shooting percentage (200-464) over the six games.
The Celtics know that these numbers will not continue and that they too will have to pick up their offensive game because Lebron is bound to bounce back.
”I missed a lot of shots I know I can make,” James said, staring blankly at the box score after scoring just two points in the second half and missing his final six shots. “I missed layups. Those layups I’ve made my whole life.”
The Celtics have put the win behind them and have already begun to prepare for Game 2 on Thursday night. Once again, they will have their eyes on Lebron and hope that this time Pierce and Allen can get into the scoring mix as well.
Tickets are still available for Game 2 at the TD Banknorth Garden!
It had been over two weeks since the Boston Celtics stepped foot in the TD Banknorth Garden, but it felt great to return home Wednesday night with a huge 92-87 win over the surging Cleveland Cavaliers. The C’s were in control most of the way which pleased another sell-out crowd of over 18,000 fans and brought them to their feet for the games final seconds.
Not only did Celtics supporters get to see a great game, they got to witness a piece of history as Lebron James became the youngest player in NBA history to score 10,000 points. He did it in 23 years and 59 days, which was more then a year faster then it took Kobe Bryant to reach the milestone when he was 24 years and 193 days old.
“It doesn’t make me happy to do it in a losing effort,” James said on NBA.com.”To be in the record books is a tribute to my teammates, myself and my family.”
The historic basket came on a thundering dunk with 4:54 remaining in the third quarter that cut the Celtics lead to 9 points (63-54) but 21 seconds later after a Rajon Rondo floater put the C’s back up by 11 and the double-digit lead held until the final minute of the contest.
“We had our hands full (with James), but I thought we did a pretty good job,” said Ray Allen on NBA.com, “I think we gutted it out.”
Allen led the Celtics in scoring with a 7-10 shooting performance, good for 22 points in 36+ minutes of action. Kevin Garnett also contributed with a double-double grabbing 11 boards, hitting for 18 points, and snatching a game high 4 steals. Paul Pierce and Leon Powe were also in double figures scoring 12 and 13 points respectively in the win.
At one point mid-way through the fourth quarter, the Celtics lead was as high as 16 points.
This is a big win for the club, especially coming off of a sub-par road-trip in which they went 2-3 over the week. Now, in the midst of a five game home stand, the Celtics hope to defend their home territory and stay a top of the East. The Cavaliers game was exciting, but the gem of this home stand is the match up on Wed. March 5th, vs. Detroit. The Pistons are currently 3 games behind the C’s for the top spot in the East, but the Celtics have not forgotten that it was the same Pistons who handed them their first home court loss of the season back on Dec. 19th.
In addition to the victory, the Celtics also announced yesterday that they had signed veteran PF/C P.J. Brown for the stretch run. Brown plays aggressive low post defense and once in game shape will be used off the bench when Garnett and Kendrick Perkins are in foul trouble. The leadership role he will assume immediately will be more influential than his physical presence on the floor. He’s not a selfish player and truly believes in the concept of team, and that’s exactly the type of guys the Celtics could use.
“First and foremost, [I'm] just try to be even more of a stabilizer on the bench, being there for the guys, being another pair of eyes on the bench, another voice in the locker room and keep them going in the right direction,” Brown said on Yahoo Sports. “I know I’m probably not going to be playing a lot here real soon, but just being there for the guys for whatever they need – encouraging, supporting and being the biggest cheerleader I can possibly be as of right now.”
Looking at the rest of the Celtics current home stand, they will battle it out with the Charlotte Bobcats March 29th, and then the Atlanta Hawks come to town for an April 1st contest. Mark your calendars if you haven’t already for the war with the Detroit Pistons on April 5th and to cap off the stand the C’s will welcome the Chicago Bulls to town for a game on April 7th.
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