The Cavaliers were struggling mightily against the Celtics until midway through the third quarter when Mo Williams ignited the crowd and his teammates with a breakaway dunk over Paul Pierce. After that, it was all over.
Williams scored 14 of his 20 points in the third quarter and LeBron James erupted late to finish with 35 points as the Cavs rallied to a 101-93 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
LeBron looked tentative in the first half, and didn’t attempt his first true jump shot until the third quarter, when he connected on a 3-pointer. He gradually asserted himself into the offense was back to his unstoppable self by the fourth quarter.
The Celtics led by 11 at the break after a brilliant performance by Rajon Rondo, who took advantage of Williams’ horrible defense to penetrate the lane at will. Rondo finished with 27 points on just 10 field goal attempts, and added seven rebounds and 12 assists. He was the best player on the floor for much of Game 1, completely controlling tempo and making good decisions.
LeBron appeared to wear down Paul Pierce, who scored 13 points on just 5-of-17 shooting. The Celtics looked exhausted in the fourth quarter.
LeBron played the entire second half but didn’t expend a great deal of energy until the fourth quarter.
The Celtics had a great chance to win Game 1. Nerves don’t figure much of a problem for the Cavs in Game 2.
Shaq made some plays late in the game, but Mike Brown needs to find more minutes for J.J. Hickson. The athletic forward scored 11 points in 12 minutes off the bench. His athleticism bothers the Celtics slow, aging frontline.
It will be interesting to see what, if any, adjustments both Brown and Doc Rivers make heading into Game 2. Rivers could give Marquis Daniels more minutes on LeBron, while Brown will likely do more to trap and wall-off Rondo.