BOSTON -- A collection of postgame notes after the Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series Thursday night at the TD Garden:
The rundown (a quick look at postgame headlines)
'Sheed didn't come to Boston for the regular season
When Kendrick Perkins retreated to the bench with four fouls midway through the third quarter, it was clear one of Boston's reserve bigs needed to step up. And for the second time in this series, Rasheed Wallace answered the call.
Wallace scored nine of his 13 points in the second half, splashing a pair of trifectas after the intermission, including a bit of a dagger with 6:09 remaining that sent the Garden crowd into a tizzy as Boston's lead ballooned to 12 and Boston coasted to the finish line from there.
"To be here, deep in the playoffs, this is why I came here," said Wallace. "I didn’t come here for the regular season. These last few games, we have been playing good. We just have to keep this train rolling.”
Wallace finished 4-of-8 shooting with three rebounds and two steals over 23:20, despite battling foul trouble of his own. He chipped in offensively when Boston needed him most and did a serviceable job defensively. It's about all the Celtics could ask of Wallace lately, just to be a factor.
For the second straight game, the Celtics relied on balance output, putting five players in double figures, including both Wallace and Tony Allen (10 points) off the bench. On a night both Ray Allen (2-for-8, 8 points) and Paul Pierce (4-for-13, 13 points) weren't sharp, Boston found a way to generate offense.
"I would say the biggest change that we have through this year is that we are a balanced scoring basketball team," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We don’t rely on one guy anymore, we don’t even rely on two or three. We just keep looking for the right place to go. And that’s easy for our coaching staff, but very difficult for the players because the players have to want to do that and trust that."
Wallace, who scored 17 points in a Game 2 triumph, still needs to become a more consistent contributor (he scored a total of 7 points in the other four games of the series), but it's encouraging to see him step up when the team has needed him most.
Wallace isn't getting content yet, even after enduring all those jokes about the age of this team.
"It’s not over yet," said Wallace. "We could laugh if we go ahead and win eight more times, and then we could laugh. Right now we are sticking with ourselves, worrying about everyone here in our locker room and our camp. That’s it."
Celtics weathered the Cavs' late-game burst
Rivers has often preached to his team to be prepared for Cleveland's runs and maybe it was surprising when the Cavaliers didn't actually make one in Tuesday's Game 5. But they sure put a brief scare into Boston in the fourth quarter of Game 6.
LeBron James buried consecutive 3-pointers 14 seconds apart as part of a lightning-fast 7-0 run that turned an 11-point game into a four-point contest with 10:12 to go. Those waiting to book flights to Orlando quickly navigated away from Expedia.com.
Rivers called timeout to steady his troops and James committed an insanely costly turnover soon after, allowing Rajon Rondo to produce a fastbreak layup. Pierce and Wallace soon followed with back-to-back 3-pointers and Kevin Garnett's emphatic one-handed jam put Boston out front, 88-74, with 5:53 to play.
“We just needed a bucket," said Rivers. "We called a timeout, we had good timeouts tonight where we came out and got good shots and good scores. You knew [a run] was coming at some point with LeBron. And when he made the back-to-back 3's, I just told our guys –- I thought we got away, by the way, from what we were doing; I kept using the word ‘hero basketball.’ I thought we had a bunch of guys who really wanted to win the game so bad that they start for that three- or four-minute stretch trying to do it on their own. And that’s what that timeout was about: To remind them that we can’t do that.
"We’ve got to continue to execute what we’re doing, do it together, and slow down. And I thought they did that."
Added Garnett: "Teams are gonna make runs, we understand that. This team, we knew they were gonna fight and scratch and do whatever they had to do. They came down, hit two 3’s, you can start to see them trying to grab the momentum. Our timeout was very, very needed at that point. I thought, throughout the whole series, that we went through some tough times. I thought we stayed together, played through it. We understood that runs are gonna happen."
Pierce never doubted a run would come.
"We've gotten some leads on them, but we know they’re going to make a run," said Pierce. "I think during the season, when we had that big lead and they came back, I think we were waiting for the clock to run out, I think we just went out and got it. Coach said go get it [in Game 6], we stayed aggressive, they pressed us, we didn’t worry about that, we just wanted to be more aggressive and I think that was the key -- not settling, not waiting for the clock running out. Just going out there and taking the win, not waiting. You saw it in the guys' eyes, we were hungry, got the ball down to Kevin [Garnett], he made a big jump shot in the post for us, and the energy was just all the way there from start to finish. This is just a team that doesn’t get rattled; I think we are starting to come into our own in the playoffs."
Loose balls: Loose balls: Fans aid C's; Doc saw potential in camp
* With the Garden faithful serenading James with chants of "New York Knicks, New York Knicks," each time he stepped to the line, Celtics guard Ray Allen admitted any player would be challenged to stay focused in that situation.
"That was probably the loudest chant," said Allen, who tried to play coy, but couldn't keep a straight face. "I was sitting on the bench and I told Glen, 'There's no way he can make this free throw after all that going back and forth. That is pressure when you step up, because it's not like he doesn't hear it and his teammates don't hear it. That's the beauty of playing in the Garden."
* Pierce also heaped praise on the crowd for their support: "They’re big every night for us," said Pierce. "We go out there and play hard and really get them involved in the game, they really give us a boost. I just thought their energy from the start was there all night, probably more so than the last games, but I thought they really brought it tonight.”
* Rivers remains steadfast that he saw championship potential in his team as early as training camp.
"I told you guys before, I saw us in training camp and, I know that sounds crazy, but I thought we were phenomenal in training camp," said Rivers. "I thought we looked better in training camp than we did two years ago, quite honestly. As a team, I thought we were close. We started out great and then obviously we fell apart, with injuries and all kinds of other issues. But you can see that everybody wanting to get it back. It was tough the last three weeks of the season because we had to make a choice. And I told you guys before what we were going to do with the rest and stuff.
"Obviously, we fell, we lost a lot of games. But I think overall it was probably the right thing to do because we did get guys healthy. And that’s the only way we’re going to be able to try to win this, is by being healthy."
* This should just about sum up how elaborate James was on his future following the game:
Q: Do you have any idea how you'll approach the offseason?
Q: Is there anything more wrong with the elbow than what was stated?
Enjoy the LeBron Watch, everybody.