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 Celtics beat Cavs at home to tighten East race

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Join date : 2008-11-21

PostSubject: Celtics beat Cavs at home to tighten East race   Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:22 pm

BOSTON(AP) Home-court advantage has meant
everything when the new Big Three plays King James, and the Boston
Celtics may have swiped the edge away from the Cavaliers on Friday
night.Paul Pierce scored 29 points, reserve Leon Powe had 20
points and 11 rebounds, and the Celtics beat Cleveland 105-94 to move
within percentage points of the East-leading Cavaliers in the race for
home-court advantage through the conference finals."I know we're
close, and at the end of the season they'll tell us,'' Celtics coach
Doc Rivers said. "Both teams are really good, and really good teams
don't lose at home. That's why it's really important for us to get
this.''The Cavaliers (48-13) lead Boston (49-14) in winning
percentage .787 to .778, though the Celtics took the lead in the
head-to-head tiebreaker, 2-1, with an April 12 game in Cleveland
remaining. Since the Celtics assembled their core of Pierce, Ray Allen
and Kevin Garnett, neither team has won on the other's court, including
the Eastern Conference semifinal last year that Boston won in seven
games."They are a good team, with and without KG,'' Cavs coach
Mike Brown said. "But I still feel like we can win on anybody's court.''Mo
Williams scored 26 for Cleveland and LeBron James had 21, shooting just
5-of-15 from the field to go with 9-for-12 from the line. He spent the
last 87 seconds of the game on the bench after the Cavaliers fell
behind by 15 and couldn't make a run."Both teams know it takes
on a different meaning because we may face each other late in the
season,'' said James, who went 13:11 without a point in the second half
as the Celtics turned a 55-52 lead into an 88-77 advantage. "At one
point, somebody's going to have to get a win on the other's home
court.''Garnett missed his seventh straight game for Boston with
a strained knee muscle, and backup Glen "Big Baby'' Davis was ejected
in the third quarter for a flagrant foul. Powe filled in and reached
season highs in both points and rebounds, giving the Celtics a spark
with a blocked shot and a basket at the other end that opened a 94-83
lead.After James missed a 3-pointer, Powe grabbed the rebound
and Pierce hit a pair of free throws, then Powe dunked with 3:48 left
to give the Celtics a 98-83 lead - their biggest of the game."I
know there's a lot depending on me coming in and playing well,'' said
Powe, who had more points and rebounds than then entire Cavaliers
bench. "It's way more than just a game. We take this is our pride
game.''The home team has won the first three matchups of the
season series, and home court could prove even more important if they
meet again in the playoffs. Boston eliminated the Cavaliers in the
Eastern Conference semifinals last year en route to its NBA-record 17th
championship.The crowd noise at tipoff was reminiscent of last
spring's playoffs, but nothing in the first half really excited the
fans as much as James' missed dunk with 8 minutes left in the first
period. Bringing the ball back with for a tomahawk slam, he instead
banged it off the back of the rim - to the delight of the sellout crowd.The
intensity returned in the second when the players went chest-to-chest
under the Cavs basket after Davis wrapped up Anderson Varejao to
prevent an easy layup. James and Allen began jawing at each other while
officials tried to separate them. They were each called for technical
fouls, as was Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas.Davis was called
for a flagrant foul and ejected - exacerbating Boston's problem at
power forward. (All seemed to be forgiven later in the third, when
Allen fouled James to stop him from an easy basket; James helped Allen
up and gave him a friendly tap on the behind.)After the free
throws, James hit a 3-pointer and Williams followed with a fadeaway
jumper that cut Boston's seven-point lead to 55-54. Cleveland soon made
it 57-all, but Pierce hit a jumper before Allen hit a 3-pointer and
then scored on a breakaway, losing the handle of the ball only to have
it bounce off James and back into Allen's hands for the reverse layup.Boston led 68-63 when Pierce hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it an 11-point game.Notes:
It was the first time in NBA history that two teams leading their
divisions by at least 17 games had met. ... Joe Smith, who was traded
last summer in the deal that brought Williams to Cleveland, returned
after buying out his contract with Oklahoma City and re-signing with
the Cavs on Thursday. ... ... Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo left in
the first quarter with a slightly sprained ankle but returned in the
second quarter. Cleveland forward Ben Wallace missed his fifth straight
game with a broken right fibula. ... Cleveland shot 38 free throws to
12 for Boston.

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