for this game

Garnett leads Celtics past Cavs, sluggish LeBron

May 7, 2008 - 5:04 AM By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- Kevin Garnett came up big when it mattered most for the Boston Celtics. On the other side, LeBron James came up short.

Garnett, who finished third in the MVP voting announced earlier Tuesday, hit a go-ahead layup with 21.4 seconds remaining to lift the Celtics to a 76-72 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game One of their Eastern Conference semifinals.

"I was just being aggressive," Garnett said. "I noticed that they were trapping from different positions, saw a lane and just was aggressive. I took my time, got my head up, just a good shot, and that's it. Nothing more, nothing less to it."

Garnett scored 28 points for Boston, which came out on top in a low-scoring, plodding contest and will look to continue its success in Game Two on Thursday.

The Celtics won despite a scoreless night from Ray Allen and just four points from Paul Pierce.

James, who was just 2-of-18 from the field, missed a layup that would have tied the game with 8.5 seconds left. He also committed 10 turnovers and finished with just 12 points.

"I don't know but if you combine our numbers, 4-for-32, between me and Paul Pierce with 16 turnovers, 0-for-9 from the 3-point line," James said. "I could keep going, I guess. Not two All-Star numbers right there."

"Guys have nights like that, but it is unusual to see (James) have a night like that from the field," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "He very seldom has a game like this, but he will bounce back and play a terrific game in Game Two."

It was the lowest point total of the postseason so far for James.

"He had a tough night, and he is entitled to it," Brown said. "My last press conference, as I have said, he is always terrific, terrific and terrific. He tried to attack which is good, and knowing him, he will definitely bounce back in Game Two."

Celtics captain Pierce had the job of guarding James all night.

"You try to be aggressive on the offense and, at the same time, I know I've got a tough job of trying to slow down LeBron," Pierce said. "So, that is all playing into my hands. There is a lot of things I've got to do to help this ballclub and, unfortunately, the offense wasn't there."

Zydrunas Ilgauskas led Cleveland with 22.

"The good defensive team is the one who can make you shoot jump shots," Ilgauskas said. "When you're open you have to take it but, more than anything, just drive it, close out and get their bigs in (foul) trouble.

"We missed a lot of good shots. Also, turnovers killed us. On the road, with so many turnovers, it's hard to win close games."

The Celtics remained perfect at home in the postseason, winning their fourth game on the parquet in as many tries.

Boston led for most of the fourth quarter, but Daniel Gibson, a hero in last year's Eastern Conference finals against the Detroit Pistons, drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:16 remaining in the fourth to tie the game at 68-68.

Following a shot-clock violation by the Celtics, Ilgauskas then hit a straightaway jumper from just beyond the key to put Cleveland up, 70-68, with 1:30 remaining.

Garnett hit a jumper with 1:13 to go to forge another tie.

Led by James' only field goal of the first half, Cleveland came out and scored the game's first five points. But the Celtics then put the defensive clamps on the Cavaliers.

Following Ilgauskas' layup with 5:58 remaining in the first, Cleveland missed its next 14 shots.

Meanwhile, after missing their first seven shots, the Celtics found their rhythm. Led by Garnett's 12 points in the first quarter, the Celtics went on a 16-4 run to take a 16-9 lead on the reigning Defensive Player of the Year's mid-range jumper.

Boston held Cleveland to just 4-of-19 shooting and held a 25-15 lead after the first.

"I thought it was the Knicks-Heat series for about 20 minutes of that game," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "It was a beautiful win. I'll put it that way."

For Allen, his zero points marked a career playoff low as he didn't score in a game for the first time in 11 years. Boston won despite shooting just 43 percent (29-of-68) and committing 21 turnovers.

"We didn't have a great rhythm tonight," Allen said. "It seemed like we were unsettled on offense, and we were rushing through a lot of things and we got bad shots and turned over the ball as a result of it. We had to win the game on the defensive end."

Rajon Rondo scored seven of his 15 first-half points in the second quarter as the Celtics twice built their lead to 12. But Cleveland used six points from former Celtic Wally Szczerbiak and six steals to cut into the lead and trailed only 41-37 at the half.

Boston scored the first four points of the third quarter but then went ice cold, and it was the sharp-shooting Ilgauskas who led the charge back for Cleveland. He hit two free throws late in the third to give the Cavaliers their first lead since earl in the first.

His 18-footer from the left wing put Cleveland ahead, 48-45. Szczerbiak hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to six before Kendrick Perkins converted 1-of-2 free throws with 4:23 remaining in the third to end Cleveland 's 14-0 run.

Both teams struggled mightily in the third offensively. Boston made just 5-of-17 attempts, while Cleveland missed 11-of-15 in the period. Sam Cassell's two free throws gave Boston the lead heading into the fourth, 53-52.

"It was a tough, defensive-minded game," Brown said. "I thought both teams came out and competed and Boston just happened to come out on top. They had one more stop than us and one more basket down the stretch which helped them get the win."