Cavaliers rout Boston, 124-95, in Game 3 of playoff series

LeBron James gives Cleveland the upper hand on defense, blocking a shot by the Celtics' Glen Davis.
LeBron James gives Cleveland the upper hand on defense, blocking a shot by the Celtics' Glen Davis. (Charles Krupa/associated Presss)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 8, 2010

BOSTON -- Kendrick Perkins was the only person standing between LeBron James and the basket, so James pretty much knew what to expect as he charged ahead. Perkins barely let James get off the ground before delivering a shiver to James's right side, knocking James down and altering his bright yellow headband.

The hard hit sent a charge in the building, but it also appeared to light a fire under James, who dusted himself off, adjusted the protective sleeve over his sore right elbow, and commenced to handing out a beat down of a different kind on the Boston Celtics.

"It was a really important game for us. Aggression was my mind-set," James said after scoring 38 points, with eight rebounds and seven assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers annihilated the Boston Celtics, 124-95, at TD Garden on Friday. "My only focus was on Game 3, just having a whole 360 of what we did in Game 2."

James meant a 180-degree turn from the Cavaliers' disappointing outing on Monday, when Cleveland's usually mild-mannered coach, Mike Brown, cursed in his postgame interview and blasted his team for not having the proper approach in an 18-point loss. But James is allowed one mistake after a dominant performance that gave his team a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven, second-round NBA playoff series. Game 4 is Sunday.

After returning home with a split in their first two games against the top-seeded Cavaliers, the Celtics forgot to pack their defensive intensity and seemingly any players with the exception of Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, left behind worries about James's right elbow.

"It didn't bother me at all," James said of the injury. "Rest helped all of us and we was able to put a complete game for the first time in these playoffs."

Six Cavaliers scored in double figures - with former Wizard Antawn Jamison adding 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds -- and the team shot 59.5 percent from the field. "Defensively, we were horrible," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said, adding that his team aided James. "I don't think we gave any resistance, you know? I mean, he was playing H-O-R-S-E."

Any momentum that the Celtics managed to build in the first two games, in which they outplayed Cleveland for three of the four halves, was stunted during the extended three-day break between games. The Cavaliers, and James's ailing right elbow, appeared to get better while the Celtics just seemed to get older.

The Cavaliers changed their defensive scheme against Rondo, who had been the second-best player in this series through the first two games. He got into the paint with his breakneck speed and set up his teammates for open shots.

Anthony Parker defended Rondo instead of Mo Williams, but the Cavaliers also decided to force Rondo into beating them as a scorer. They left Rondo open several times for jumpers, and he took the shots, even made a few, which got the rest of the Celtics out of rhythm offensively.

Garnett had a team-high 19 points and Rondo had 18 points and eight assists, but Ray Allen and Paul Pierce combined to score just 18 points and miss 20 of 24 shots from the field. "Terrible loss," said Pierce, who scored just 11 points. "It was embarrassing, to tell you the truth. We definitely got out work cut out for us. We know it's not going to be easy."

The Cavaliers had problems with slow starts through the first two games, but they were the aggressors early on, scoring the first six points of the game. They led 10-8, but the game changed shortly thereafter. Perkins was assessed a flagrant foul after clobbering James. "I knew it was going to be a tough foul. it didn't stop me from being aggressive the rest of the game," said James, who scored the next eight points.

Jamison added two free throws to complete the 10-0 run that gave Cleveland a 20-8 lead. Rasheed Wallace made a turnaround jumper to bring Boston within 25-15 with 3 minutes 8 seconds left in the first period, but the Celtics wouldn't get any closer for the rest of the game. Cleveland scored the next 11 points, including a 360-degree dunk by James, and led 36-17 after the first period. James had outscored the Celtics by himself, 21-17. James had 28 points at halftime, as the Cavaliers led 65-43.

"To be able to do that on the road, against a team like this speaks volumes," Jamison said. "But the thing about us is that we weren't satisfied."

Nothing seemed to go right for the Celtics on Friday. In the third quarter, Perkins blocked a Jamison floater and chased down the ball. But Perkins saved the ball to Jamison, who went right back up for layup that put Cleveland ahead 86-58.

"We let them attack us, continue to attack us," Allen said. "On Sunday, we have to be the bulldozer."

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