There have been more embarrassing games by a number one overall seed at home after having their franchise player win the MVP.
Well, one at least.
But the performance by the Cleveland Cavaliers was so pathetic, and that of the Boston Celtics so dominant, this one is likely to leave a lingering stench in the Q until the Cavas head back for Game 5, no matter the series count.
Two days after a game where the Cavs looked like they could handle the best punch the Celtics could throw at them, the Celtics landed a a series of blows in Game 2 that knocked the Cavs to the same position they were in after the first half of Game 1 and instead of slacking off, proceeded to heymaker them into the ground in front of a homecrowd. All this just minutes after LeBron James received the MVP from Commissioner David Stern. The final score was 104-86, but it felt much wider.
The blueprint? Pretty simple, really. Lockdown Mo Williams and force him into the same awkward pull-up transition jumpers he nailed in Game 1, only with a hand in his face, constantly hammer and deny LeBron James, crash the glass, and have Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen lead the way.
Rondo didn’t “Olajuwon” James’ “Robinson” but it was an outright domination to be sure. Rondo finished with 19 assists, to go with 13 points and 2 steals. You even got the trademark ball-fake-and-soft-lay-in move which he faked both Anderson Varejao and Anthony Parker out with. He was everywhere, forcing the ball up quickly on every possession, and making huge plays at every point.
The Cavs did make a 15-0 run late to get back into it, but at that point the lead was simply too much and Boston responded with an 11-3 run to nail the coffin shut. Two missed threes between the four and five minute mark of the fourth kept the lead enough.
LeBron James’ elbow will be discussed at length in the next three days, but let’s be clear. James’ pedestrian performance (24 points, 7 rebounds, 10 of 15 from the line) was the product of a sound defensive strategy from the Celtics which worked hard to simply deny the ball to his side, then hammer him when he went inside, and largely forced him out of the action.
Meanwhile, Mo Williams crashed back to Earth and the crater he left is big enough to contain his ego. Without Williams and with Shaq continuing to struggle, the Cavs had no option. Antawn Jamison had a good game, but not a great game.
The Celtics played with championship defense and the Cavs played with a discerning lack of urgency for the second game in a row. So now we have a 1-1 series headed back to Boston. This isn’t over. The Cavs will have answers to some adjustments most likely, and James is unlikely to have consecutive bad games. But if the Cavs thought they were immune to the failure they suffered last year, they’re likely now staring it in the face in the locker room.
Game 3 is Friday in Boston.