The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who's starting to think Tuesday is the new Monday. When he's not wishing he was still chillin' in bed, he can be found rubbing his chin in a thoughtful way at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
Welcome To Cleveland's Roadkill Cafe. Swarming defense, a brutal posterization of the Defensive Player of the Year, a superstar potty mouth, and LeBron's momma ... these were all part of an 88-77 Cavaliers win that had Doc Rivers and his Celtics clicking their ruby slippers together and chanting "There's no place like TD Banknorth Garden...there's no place like TD Banknorth Garden..."
Despite the fact that the Green and White built their reputation on a best-in-the-league defense, Cleveland did most of the shutting downing last night, holding the Celtics to 38 percent shooting and only 12 points in the fourth quarter. And while Boston's not-so-big-anymore three were getting blanked in that final stanza, King James (21 points, 6 rebounds, 13 assists) put his royal boot up the leprechaun's butt, dishing four dimes, hitting the first of two game-breaking threes (Boobie Gibson hit the other one), and dropping an exclamation mark jam on KG that led an Associated Press writer to observe "The Cavaliers were awed by James' stuff." Which I'm sure is totally true, but probably a little TMI.
Of course, many people will remember this contest as the game that LeBron's mom, Gloria James, got all up in Paul Pierce's face after Truth put a bear hug on the King to prevent a second-quarter dunk. But LeBron defused a potentially disruptive situation by calmly explaining that her behavior was inappropriate and politely asking her to return to her seat at the earliest possible convenience. Or something like that.
Said LeBron: "I told her to sit down, in some language that I shouldn't have used. Thank God today wasn't Mother's Day. All I could think about is her. I know my mother, we're good." Suuuuure, LeBron. Whatever you say. (But ask yourself this: Would your mom be okay with you telling her to sit her ass down? Yeah. Didn't think so.)
LeBron hit only 7-for-20 from the field but actually improved his series shooting average to 26 percent. But his Dick Cheney-like marksmanship weren't no thang, partly because he dished 'em and hit 'em when they mattered most, and partly because he got some actual, honest-to-goodness help from Gibson (14 points, 4 assists, and a fourth-quarter dagger), Wally Szczerbiak (14 points, 6-for-11), and Sideshow Bob (12 points, 6 rebounds).
Meanwhile, the Celtics' performances — such as they were — came with asterisks. KG led his team with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but he scored only 2 points in the second half and zero points in the fourth. Ray Allen had 15 points too, but he shot only 4-for-10 and couldn't get open down the stretch. Pierce scored half of his team's 12 fourth-quarter points, but he finished with 13 on 17 shots. Oh, and Boston's bench got outscored 36-17.
Game 5 is Wednesday.