BOSTON (AP) - The Boston Celtics sent LeBron James and the
Cavaliers back to Cleveland to admire all of their regular-season
It's the Celtics who are still in the chase for an NBA title.
Kevin Garnett scored 22 points and added 12 rebounds, and Rondo
had 21 points and 12 assists to beat Cleveland 94-85 in Game 6 on
Thursday night. Boston advanced to the Eastern Conference finals,
which begin Sunday in Orlando against the Magic, who are 8-0 in the
playoffs after sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks
in the opening rounds.
James had a triple-double but he's headed for another early
offseason after winning a second MVP award, leading the Cavs to an
NBA-best 61 wins and a home-court advantage they never got to use.
This one is destined to define the future of the franchise - and
the rest of the NBA, too.
The LeBron watch began at 10:53 p.m., when Rondo dribbled out
the last 14 seconds and the Celtics began celebrating. James is
eligible to opt out of his contract this summer, a move that would
make the two-time MVP - and zero-time NBA champion - a free agent
and set off a scramble for his services from New York to Miami to
Los Angeles and, of course, back in Cleveland.
"Well we know their team is fueled by one guy," Garnett said.
"If we could somehow, some way, control the supporting cast we had
James scored 27 points and had 10 assists and a career
playoff-high 19 rebounds. He also had nine turnovers.
"I just told him, 'Keep your head up, man. I've been there,"'
said Garnett, who toiled as a star without a title in Minnesota for
more than a decade before winning one with Boston in 2008. "You
have a very, very, very bright future. Continue to work and make
decisions based on you and your family. Best advice I can give
Mo Williams scored 20 of his 22 points in the first half for the
"Just never had a rhythm to the game, and give Boston credit
for it," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said of his team.
Boston's Paul Pierce scored 11 of his 13 points in the second
half after playing just nine minutes - and shooting 1-for-5 - in
the first with foul trouble. The Celtics had missed their first
eight 3-point attempts when Pierce hit a 3 that gave them a 65-58
lead with 4:06 left in the third.
It was 67-61 when Rasheed Wallace hit a 3-pointer, and then Ray
Allen stole James' pass and got the ball to Pierce for another 3
that completed a 16-4 run.
James hadn't made an outside shot before hitting back-to-back
3-pointers to cut it to four points, 78-74, early in the fourth
quarter. But Rondo drove for a layup, then set Pierce up for
another 3. Pierce found Wallace for a 3-pointer and then Tony
Allen's steal led to a Garnett dunk at the other end that sent the
Cavaliers into a timeout to regroup, down 88-74 with 5:53 left in
It was the second straight year Cleveland has finished the
regular-season with the No. 1 overall seed, and the second in a row
that they have failed to get out of the East. Last year, they lost
to Orlando in the conference finals, an exit that left James so
shaken he skulked off the court without shaking hands.
This year, he might not stop until he finds himself in a new
The sold-out Boston crowd taunted his every free throw with a
chant of "New York Knicks!" and fans wore Knicks jerseys with his
name on them. The only "M-V-P!" cheers were not for James, who
was the league's best player in the regular season, but for Rondo,
who was the best player in this series.
NOTES: The hottest T-shirt in the stands was a takeoff of the
famous Barack Obama campaign poster with James' image and the
caption, "Nope." ... Wallace was called for a technical foul in
the second quarter. He had 14 in the regular season, but it was his
first of the playoffs. ... Cleveland is the only team to advance to
the Eastern Conference semifinals in each of the last five years.