BOSTON, May 14 – The Boston Celtics beat Cleveland 94-85 Thursday to reach the National Basketball Association playoff semi-finals, sending LeBron James into a possible uncertain future with the Cavaliers.Kevin Garnett scored 22 points and added 12 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 12 assists for Boston, which will open the semi-finals Sunday in Florida against the Orlando Magic.
"Well we know their team is fuelled by one guy," Garnett said. "If we could somehow, some way, control the supporting cast we had a chance."
James is eligible to opt out of his contract with Cleveland this summer, a move that would make the two-time MVP a free agent and set off a coast-to-coast bidding frenzy.
James was coy about his summer plans, saying he needs time to think.
"I want to win. That is my only concern," James said. "The Cavs are committed to doing that but at the same time I am giving myself options."
Garnett picked up his offence in the series and his teammates threw a blanket around James in the final two games of the best-of-seven series which the Celtics won 4-2. Thursday’s win followed Boston’s 120-88 rout of Cleveland on Tuesday.
It was the second consecutive year the Cavaliers finished the regular-season first overall and the second straight they failed to get out of the East. Last year, they lost to Orlando in the semi-finals and James stomped off the court without congratulating the Magic.
"I just told him, ‘Keep your head up, man. I’ve been there,"’ Garnett said to James on the court after Thursday’s game.
"’You have a very, very, very bright future. Continue to work and make decisions based on you and your family.’ That is the best advice I can give him."
James had a triple-double, scoring 27 points and had 10 assists and a career playoff-high 19 rebounds. He also had nine turnovers.
"Our guys fought. They fought to the end," said Cleveland coach Mike Brown. "It was a tough night for us. Give Boston credit."
Mo Williams scored 20 of his 22 points in the first half for Cleveland, who won an NBA-best 61 games in the 2009-10 regular season.
Paul Pierce scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half after playing just nine minutes in the first half.
Coach Doc Rivers tried to rally his troops during a sideline huddle late in the game by emphasizing team ball.
"I know you all want to win, but let’s do it together," he shouted at the players over the noise of the screaming Celtic fans.
Boston missed their first eight three-point attempts when Pierce hit a three that gave them a 65-58 lead with 4:06 left in the third.
It was 67-61 when Rasheed Wallace hit a three and then Ray Allen stole James’ pass and got the ball to Pierce for another three that completed a 16-4 run.
Celtics fans serenaded James with chant of "New York Knicks!" and fans wore Knicks jerseys with his name on them.
James played through the pain of an elbow injury but said poor shooting was more of a factor.
"I am not making any excuses," he said. "I had opportunities it just didn’t fall for me.
"I am not using the elbow as an excuse. It limited me some, but at this point in the season I don’t know anybody that is 100 percent."