Seldom-used bench player could have success against James

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Seldom-used bench player could have success against James

Paul Pierce isn't the only member of the Boston Celtics who has learned LeBron James' game inside and out.

While Pierce has been battling against James on the opposing team for years, including this season in the Eastern Conference Finals, Celtics swingman Sasha Pavlovic has more firsthand experience with the Miami Heats power player.

James was the top pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. Pavlovic was selected 18 picks after him. A year later, the two became teammates on the Cavaliers when Pavlovic was traded to Cleveland. They played together on the 2008 Cavaliers squad that was eliminated by the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Pavlovic spent five years on the same team as James and watched him develop from a young phenom into a league MVP. Now that they are facing off in the playoffs for the second year in a row, Pavlovic knows what to expect -- and how to limit -- his former teammate.

LeBron's always going to be LeBron, Pavlovic said. He can score, he's one of the best players in the league, but we've got to make it hard for him. Contest every shot, don't let him get into the lane.

James scored 32 points in the Heats Game 1 victory over the Celtics on Monday, the most points allowed by the Cs this postseason. The 6-8, 250-pound forward got to the rim and attacked the lane, a weapon Pavlovic says the Celtics have to take away from him.

He is most effective probably driving to the middle, Pavlovic said. We can't allow him to do that. He has the size and he's more aggressive. He tries to get in, then his shots open up, and we've just got to stop him from driving.

Pavlovic emphasized the Celtics need to focus on the entire Heat team, not just James. But after netting 13 field goals in Game 1 (also the most allowed by the Cs this postseason), it was clear who they have to make defensive adjustments on moving forward.

All I know is, he's like everybody else during the playoffs, said Pavlovic. Hes more focused and playing as hard as he can.

Pavlovic played four minutes in the series opener. Whether or not he will be called upon to use his familiarity with James remains to be seen.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics surge at end of second quarter

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics surge at end of second quarter

BOSTON –  For the second time in as many games, the Boston Celtics were hosting a team eager to get off a losing skid.

But a strong surge near the end of the second quarter gave the Celtics a 65-56 halftime lead over Portland which came into the night having lost four straight.

Boston opened with a 12-4 run capped off by a 3-pointer by Jae Crowder – his second within the game’s first couple minutes.

But the Blazers were being carried by C.J. McCollum, half of the most explosive backcourt in the NBA. His 12 first-quarter points were crucial to keeping the Blazers within 28-26 at the end of the quarter.

McCollum continued to out-perform everyone else on the floor, even Isaiah Thomas who had a quieter than usual first half.

But the 5-foot-9 Thomas continued to make all the plays needed to put the Celtics back on top courtesy of a 12-3 run that put them ahead 57-49 with 1:55 to play in the half.

From there, Boston was able to maintain control of the game.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Saturday’s game.

 

STARS

C.J. McCollum

While there’s still talk about whether Damian Lillard will be an All-Star this year, McCollum has played well enough to where he’s at least worthy of a mention in the All-Star conversation. He certainly carried Portland in the first half with 26 points on 8-for-12 shooting.

Isaiah Thomas

As usual, Thomas drew a considerable amount of attention from the opposing defense. And slowly but surely, he found cracks that he could exploit. At the half, he had 17 points, four assists and three rebounds, one of which was an offensive board that he put-back in for a lay-up.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He put the Celtics on a good path from the outset, knocking down a couple 3’s in the first couple of minutes. He finished the half with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting which included a trio of 3-pointers.

Meyers Leonard

He was 3-for-4 in the first half which included a pair of powerful dunks over Boston’s Jordan Mickey. At the half he had eight points and two rebounds.

 

DUDS

Damian Lillard

It was a rough half for the two-time All-Star, tallying just three points on 1-for-5 shooting. A big part of his problem? Foul trouble. He played just 10 minutes in the first half due in large part to having three personal fouls.