Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics tips off at 3:30 Eastern on ABC. For further reading, be sure to check out our Cavs blog, Fear The Sword, and our Celtics blog, the appropriately-named CelticsBlog.
Preview courtesy of Sports Network.
LeBron James and the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers bounced back from their worst playoff performance this year in a big way on Friday. Now, Mike Brown's club hopes to seize control of its Eastern Conference semifinals series with Boston this afternoon as the two teams meet in Game 4 at TD Garden.
James scored 21 of his 38 points in the first quarter on Friday, helping the Cavs jump out to a big lead en route to handing the Celtics their worst ever home playoff loss, a 124-95 drubbing in Game 3.
The Cavs shot an impressive 59.5 percent overall, bouncing back from an ugly 104-86 defeat on Monday to take a 2-1 series lead.
"I thought we were aggressive on both ends of the floor for 48 minutes," Brown said. "It was great to see LeBron set the tone from the jump ball, and everyone else followed."
James' right elbow strain did little to curb his production, as he finished with eight rebounds and seven assists while shooting 14-of-22 from the floor. Antawn Jamison ended with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Shaquille O'Neal added 12 and nine in the victory.
Nate Robinson added 11 points off Boston's bench as the C's trumped their previous worst playoff loss at home, a 97-70 to setback Indiana on May 7, 2005.
"It wasn't our offense. They shot 62 percent in the first half," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said of the slow start. "Defensively we were horrible."
Pierce, who is usually Boston's top offensive player, has struggled mightily in the series, averaging just 12.7 points and shooting a miserable 13-42 from the floor.
"Obviously we do want to get [Pierce] involved more," Rivers said after practice on Saturday. "He has to get his rhythm better."
Often matched up with James at both ends of the floor, Pierce has been expending a lot of energy defensively and that could be affecting his offensive game.
"They really haven't gone to Pierce a lot, which is OK with us," Brown said. "Pierce is a great player and the only thing we hope we can do when he catches is try to make him work. We haven't quote-unquote shut him down, but 'Bron's done a nice job of trying to stay in front and not give him any angles."
The Cavs and Celtics split four games in the regular season while both clubs finished off their opening round opponents this year in just five games, as Cleveland dispensed of Central Division rival Chicago, and the Celtics sent the Miami Heat back to South Beach.
The teams have met four times in the postseason dating back to the 1975-76 season when Boston won the Eastern Conference finals over the Cavs in six games. The C's also won a first round series over Cleveland in 1984-85, and in the East semis in 2007-08. The Cavs only win in the postseason over Boston came in the East semifinals during the 1991-92 season, also a seven-game set.
The best-of-seven series continues in Cleveland for Game 5 on Tuesday.