Cavaliers made Garnett work for workmanlike effort

By Barbara Matson
Globe Correspondent / May 8, 2010

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It’s always tough to be vanquished. Losing is difficult but losing by 29 points, on your home court, in the playoffs, well that’s just grim.

“It’s embarrassing when you lose at home like that,’’ said Celtics captain Paul Pierce after the Cavaliers squashed the Celtics, 124-95, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series last night at TD Garden.

Game 4 is tomorrow at the Garden.

LeBron James said his team put together a complete game for the first time in these playoffs, and it was likely at the expense of Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett, who had dominated the first two games of the best-of-seven series.

James led all players with 38 points, and teammate Antwan Jamison, usually matched up against Garnett, scored 20 and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Garnett established an intimidating presence in the first two games, but it was Jamison pouring it on last night. Garnett led the Celtics with 19 points, shooting 8 for 11 and 3 for 3 from the line, but he was a leader without a following.

“Offensively we didn’t have a lot of movement,’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “There’s no doubt about that. Didn’t go to Kevin enough. And we’ve got to make a concerted effort to continue to go to Kevin. And we didn’t do that. Defensively, we were horrible.’’

James scored 21 points in the first quarter, spearheading an aggressive and thorough effort as the Cavaliers carved out a 36-17 lead that set an unstoppable pace.

“With the exception of tonight, [Garnett’s] got a lot of shots the first two games,’’ said Jamison. “When I played behind him, the guy is too good to think that you’re going to make every shot difficult.

“But with him, you can’t let him get into his sweet spot, you have to work him early and make him work hard on the offensive end and just not let him get into that comfort zone.’’

In the second quarter, Garnett knocked down three jumpers and a reverse layup in a 3:52 stretch, but that spurt still left the Celtics 18 points down, 57-39.

“I welcome the challenge,’’ added Jamison. “He’s a key component to what they’re trying to do and I have to make everything difficult for him. When he has the ball, I think something that I did tonight that I didn’t do the first two games, is trying to make him move. I think I shot too many jumpers the first two games. And now I can drive the ball. I think I really have to make him work on both ends of the floor.’’

Before the game, Rivers said, “If [Garnett] plays well and someone else doesn’t, it hurts us in that way. We all have to play well.’’

There was concern a foot strain suffered in Game 2 might limit Garnett, but he was ready to go. He was ready to go at the end of the game, too, leaving the building without speaking with the media.

It was left for Pierce to sum up the team’s futility.

“I think we let our guard down,’’ he said.

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