CLEVELAND - The Celtics have talked time and time again about how valuable home-court advantage is to them. Considering how they haven't been able to win on the road in the postseason, it's easy to understand that now.
The Celtics dropped to 0-5 in the postseason on the road with an 88-77 loss to the Cavaliers in Game 4 of their second-round series last night at Quicken Loans Arena. The best-of-seven series is now knotted at 2-2, with Game 5 in Boston tomorrow night.
The Celtics are now 0-4 in Cleveland overall this season and will have to return for Game 6 Friday.
"We'll get the next one," said Paul Pierce, who had 13 points on 6-of-17 shooting. "I feel like, hey, every time we get a chance to step on the court, we have an opportunity to win.
"We're definitely not discouraged with the loss, especially on the road. Hopefully, we can play better at home and break this road streak so everyone can stop talking about it."
This season, the Celtics had an NBA-best 31 road wins. But they haven't won a road game since April 14 at New York. However, they are 6-0 in the postseason at TD Banknorth Garden and 4-0 overall there against Cleveland.
"The win was, of course, big," said Cavaliers forward LeBron James, who had 21 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. "We took care of home court. That's what we needed to do and we made it a three-game series."
The Celtics were outscored, 20-12, in the fourth quarter - their lowest-scoring quarter of the postseason. In the period, they shot 31.3 percent from the field and had zero offensive rebounds.
The individual scoring for Boston in the fourth consisted of 6 points from Paul Pierce, 4 from P.J. Brown, and 2 from Sam Cassell. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen both scored 15 for the game but went scoreless in the fourth. Cleveland also nailed three 3-pointers in the fourth.
"It's pretty frustrating," Garnett said. "We put ourselves in a pretty good position to win the game. Obviously, we didn't have the fourth quarter we normally have."
Coach Doc Rivers said his team needed to play better "under stress" during the final stretch of games. Pierce and Garnett begged to differ.
"I wouldn't say we're lacking poise," Garnett said. "In a situation like ours, we are trying to do everything that Doc wants us to do. He makes all the calls. He gives us direction. For the most part, we pretty much try to do what he wants."
Said Pierce, "I don't know what he means. I'm stressed every game. Stressed to get a win."
No Boston player scored more than 15 points, and as a team, the Celtics shot 38.6 percent from the field, including 3 for 14 on 3-pointers. They had only 2 fast-break points and 5 second-chance points.
"Defensively, what we've been doing is excellent," James said.
The Celtics were down, 68-65, entering the fourth quarter. With 6:41 left, Brown (8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) nailed a 15-foot jumper that sliced the deficit to 76-73. The Cavaliers responded with a 6-2 run finalized by a Daniel Gibson 3-pointer to vault ahead, 82-75.
"I thought we had some good looks in the fourth," Pierce said. "They just didn't fall. They had some open threes, some contested threes, and that opened up the game for them."
Said Gibson, "That's the perfect time to step up and play big. In those moments of the game where you get an open look, you have got to knock it down. That's what you work for, to get those opportunities."
James sealed the game by driving past two Celtics to throw down a tomahawk dunk with 1:45 remaining that gave Cleveland an 84-75 lead.
"I just wanted to be aggressive," James said. "Once I turn the corner and get my 1-2 down, there are not too many guys who can get up there and jump with me."
Said Rivers, "He can dunk, especially if you give him a running start at the basket."
As bad as the Celtics have been on the road, they are the complete opposite at home. But just as he did in the Atlanta series, Rivers has cautioned his team that simply coming home doesn't guarantee wins.
"We'll go home and hopefully take care of business," Rivers said. "But like I said the last time we were in this spot, we just can't go home and assume. We have to play."
Cavs guard Wally Szczerbiak, the ex-Celtic who scored 14 points, said, "We did what we wanted to do, and we have got a chance to go steal one over there, and now we are going to try to do it."