The stingy Celtics forced LeBron James and the Cavaliers into having a miserable four-day Boston trip. And if everything goes the Celtics' way on the road this time, the Cavaliers won't have any reason to come back to Beantown any time soon.
The Celtics routed the Cavaliers, 89-73, in Game 2 of their second-round series in front of a sold-out TD Banknorth Garden. Boston has a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series against the reigning Eastern Conference champs. The Celtics are also 6-0 at home in the postseason.
"All year long we've been tough to beat at home," said Paul Pierce, who had a team-high 19 points. "And this is where we want to defend our home court and not let anybody come here and get comfortable."
The next two games are in Cleveland, with Game 3 tomorrow night. The Celtics won an NBA-best 31 road games in the regular season, but lost all three road games in the first round against Atlanta. Boston was also 0-2 in the regular season at Cleveland.
"We are going into a hostile building and we know they play really well at home," said Kevin Garnett, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds. "It's easier said than done, but some way we have to carry this energy over and take one game at a time."
"Being down, 0-2, that's a tough hole to dig yourself out of," said Cavaliers star LeBron James. "But we're going to have to do it if we want to move on."
The Celtics entered last night allowing only 76 points per game and a .351 field goal percentage in five postseason home games. They continued their stingy defense in Game 2, holding Cleveland to 35.6 percent shooting, 2 of 13 from 3-point range.
"I thought our defense was pretty much the same, pretty solid," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
James averaged an NBA-best 30 points in the regular season. After being limited to 12 points in Game 1, he scored a game-high 21 last night but missed 16 of 24 shots.
"Defensively, they're very, very aggressive," James said. "They're very good. I'm just missing shots I normally make. They haven't fallen in this building the last two games."
Said Pierce: "LeBron is what makes them go and if we somehow control him, then we control their team."
The Cavaliers opened the game with a 21-9 run, making 10 of 16 shots. Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas quickly scored 10 of his 19 points, making five jumpers in that stretch.
The Celtics finished the first quarter trailing, 24-17. Cleveland shot 52.4 percent from the field in the first quarter and outrebounded the Celtics, 10-6. The Celtics missed 8 of 15 field goal attempts in the quarter and allowed 6 points on four turnovers.
The Celtics' bench, however, provided a spark in the second quarter. The Celtics outscored the Cavaliers, 27-12, en route to a 44-36 halftime lead. Boston's bench scored 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting in the second, getting 7 points and 6 rebounds from Leon Powe. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers missed 15 of 17 shots, allowed 9 points off four turnovers, and didn't have a field goal the final 4:36.
"Just be focused and ready when your name is called," said Powe (11 points, seven rebounds). "Just try to go out and play 110 percent, all out. It is the playoffs, you don't have time to rest."
Said Cavaliers coach Mike Brown: "Their second unit was able to come up with key rebounds and key loose balls. It was almost like every loose ball, the Celtics beat us to it, so you have to give them credit for doing that the entire night."
The Celtics opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run, with 4 points from Ray Allen, to take a 54-36 lead at the 9:53 mark. Allen's lay-in with 11:38 left was his first field goal since the third quarter of Game 7 against Atlanta.
"I don't let people talk about whether I'm in a slump or not [affect my approach]," said Allen, who had 16 points, all in the second half, on 4-of-10 shooting and 7 of 8 from the free throw line. "You just miss. You could miss four in a row, then you could make four in a row. That is my mentality."
The Celtics finished the third with a 70-51 lead, outscoring Cleveland, 26-15, in the quarter. An Allen 3-pointer gave the Celtics a 76-54 lead with 10:23 left in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers did not challenge the rest of the way.
The Celtics were in the same position, up, 2-0, against Atlanta, then returned home tied, 2-2. With a much better James and the Cavaliers back home, the Celtics know they have a big challenge.
"It's not going to be easy on the road," Rivers said. "So we have to just go in with the same mind-set and play our game."
Marc J. Spears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org