By Shirely Coshatt
Game 4 started out much better than Game 3, but the end result was the same as the Celtics lost to the Cavaliers 88-77. The Celtics will now head back to Boston with a series tied at 2 games apiece once again. In their five tries thus far, despite possessing the best record away from home during the regular season, the Celtics inexplicably have not been able to win on the road in the playoffs. After getting blown out in Game 3, they came out more aggressively in this one and kept it close until the final two minutes when the Cavaliers finally pulled away.
Kendrick Perkins got into quick foul trouble and went to the bench with 4:10 left in the first. Perkins returned in the second quarter only to pick up his third foul a little over a minute later. He finished with 2 points and 3 rebounds in just 18 minutes of play. P.J. Brown benefited the most from Perkins’ foul problems, submitting his best game as a Celtic with 8 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in 22 minutes. It was somewhat puzzling that Leon Powe played only 6 minutes after generally playing very well in the post season so far. In another puzzling move, Big Baby Davis started the fourth quarter and played 4 minutes with only 1 missed jumper and a foul to show for his efforts.
Kevin Garnett was once again very active in this game, diving for loose balls and forcing 2 jump balls. He had 13 points in the first half but scored just 2 points in the second half to finish with 15 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block in 40 minutes. At times, Paul Pierce was aggressive in taking the ball to the hoop and it seemed as though he might take over the game but then he would stop driving and settle for quick outside jumpers. He had 13 points on 6-17 shooting to go with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Ray Allen seemed to come alive in the second half, finally breaking out of his shooting slump and scoring 9 of his 15 points in the 3rd quarter. He also pulled down 6 rebounds and dished out 3 assists.
Rajon Rondo did a good job of pushing the pace of the game and he also was more aggressive on offense. He finished with 15 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in 33 minutes. Sam Cassell struggled In this game as he was 0-5 from the field in 14 minutes of play and defensively he was burned by Daniel Gibson on a regular basis. Doc may have left Cassell in too long as the offense seemed to stall when he was running the point.
Through 3 quarters, the Celtics controlled the boards with a 31-28 advantage. However, they were out rebounded 6-1 in the fourth quarter. Conventional wisdom asserts that much of rebounding is the result of effort and the Celtics clearly didn’t put the requisite effort out in the final period. Once again, Boston gave up too many easy shots as they allowed Cleveland to shoot 46% from the field. On the other end, the Celtics struggled with their offense, shooting just 39%. Unlike the other road games, Boston actually held the edge in free throws as they shot 20-26 versus just 12-18 for Cleveland.
The Celtics were still within striking distance at a 4 point deficit with 2:43 left in the game but they allowed their chances to slip away by allowing the Cavaliers to go on a 9-2 run to end the game. During that stretch, the Cavaliers scored on a variety of dunks and 3 pointers to close out the game. At the end of the game, Boston looked tired and a step slow and thus allowed Cleveland to run away in the final minutes. The Cavaliers’ bench came up big with 36 points and 19 rebounds while the Celtics bench struggled with just 17 points and 11 rebounds. No Celtics subs were in double figures while on the other side Gibson had 14 points and Anderson Varejao had 12.
The series now shifts back to Boston for game 5 and hopefully the struggles they have had on the road won’t follow them home. The Celtics are still the only team who hasn’t won on the road in the post season and their Jekyll and Hyde persona between home and the road has gotten more and more puzzling and more than a little worrisome. If they looked tired in Game 3, you have to think the battle against fatigue is only going to get worse as these series drag out. Hopefully, Boston can find a solution to their poor play on both ends of the court, or their dream season may end considerably short of the goal.