In the first six games of the series, the 90-point mark was eclipsed just once by each team. The Cavs did it in a 108-84 win in Game 3, and Boston did it in a 96-89 Game 5 victory.
It was a defense-dominated series. Yet it was the offense of two players – Boston’s Paul Pierce and Cleveland’s LeBron James – that was the story of Game 7. The two all-stars, who doubled as the other’s primary defender, delivered a classic duel. Pierce netted 41 points on 13-of-23 shooting. James put in 45 points on 14-of-29 shooting.
The two players accounted for more than 45 percent of the game’s scoring. Think about that. Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and two guys scored almost half of the points in a 97-92 thriller. In the end, the Celtics – riding Pierce, home court and a relentless intensity – were too much for Cleveland to overcome.
In the end, keeping it close was not enough for the Cavs. They lost two of the three games decided by five points or less in the series, including the decisive Game 7.
It was the little things that did them in. With Boston clinging to a three-point lead and less than 3 minutes to play, veteran P.J. Brown secured an offensive rebound – Boston had 10 for a total of 18 second-chance points – and scored the put back for the Celtics. The little-used Brown would hit add a jumper with 1:21 to play after Cleveland cut the lead to one. Boston made the little plays to win; Cleveland did not.
Sasha Pavlovic stepped on the line for a would-be wide open three-pointer, which netted just two points. Delonte West missed a potential tying three with just more than a minute left. LeBron James failed to step in front of Paul Pierce to box out on a jump ball situation that the Cavs should have controlled. Pierce hustled to be first to the ball and got the timeout called, swiping a precious possession away from Cleveland.
There are so many instances Cavalier fans can point to and wonder “what if?” but while they’re left wondering, the Celtics move on a face another daunting opponent, the Detroit Pistons. Detroit is playing in the Eastern Conference Finals for the sixth straight season. Boston returns for the first time since 2002 when they lost in six games to the New Jersey Nets. Only Paul Pierce remains from that team. And if he can build upon his Game 7 performance in the next round, he may play in the NBA Finals for the first time in his career and end the Celtics’ drought that’s lasted more than 20 years.
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