James missed all but two of his 18 shots from the field Tuesday night in Cleveland’s 76-72 loss, including a layup that would have tied it with 9 seconds remaining. Pierce and Allen also went a combined 2-for-18, with Allen failing to score for the first time in 852 games.
“I can’t play no worse than I did last night,” James said Wednesday.
“You don’t expect those guys to have off nights like that. I don’t expect myself to have an off night like I did.”
After Tuesday night, though, everyone expects Thursday night’s Game 2 and the rest of the Eastern Conference semifinals series to be a bruising, stifling fight between two top defenses.
“You’re going to have to run through a brick wall to get to 100 points it seems like, the way these two teams play defense,” Pierce said. “You just expect it to be a defensive struggle throughout.”
It was Tuesday.
With two-thirds of Boston’s Big Three nearly shut out, it took Kevin Garnett to bail out the Celtics. He finished with 28 points, including the go-ahead basket with 21 seconds left.
“Offensively, we were a terrible-looking group,” Pierce said. “We turned the ball over 23 times, shot 40 percent from the field. We did just about everything wrong you could do offensively, and what happens, the defense comes and saves the day.”
James, meanwhile, had one of the worst shooting nights of his career, leading his team to a miserable 30.7 shooting percentage. James has made fewer than two baskets just one, on Dec. 29, 2004, when he missed all five of his shots against Houston.
James refused, though, to call it his worst game ever.
“No, nah, nah. It’s not the worst. At the end of the day we still had a chance to win the ball game,” James said. “I wasn’t satisfied with the way I played but saying it’s my worst game, nah.”
Cleveland coach Mike Brown said the Cavs must do a better job moving the ball across the court and spacing themselves to get better looks at the basket.
“We have to make sure we’re attacking and having multiple drives in the same possession,” he said. “There’s some things we can do better to hopefully increase that (shooting) percentage.”
Pierce said the Celtics must continue to contain James and figure out ways to score themselves if they want to win the series.
“They’re going to try to do things to make it easier on him, maybe get him out in transition a little bit more, get him in position where he’s not double-teamed any more,” he said “It’s up to us to try to counter the things they’re going to do.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said James won’t try to win all by himself—and Boston can’t force him to try.
“LeBron’s not going to allow that,” he said. “What makes him special at his age is he understands it takes five, and he’s going to always involve the five guys.”
Not that anyone believes James—or Pierce or Allen—will be as cold as they were in Game 1 again.
“I don’t expect Paul and Ray to have the struggles, and I don’t expect LeBron to have struggles either,” Celtics center Kendrick Perkins said. “So I think we’re in for a good Game 2.”
James didn’t seemed fazed either, saying he wanted to play again immediately after Game 1 ended.
“If I have a bad game or I have a bad two games, it’s not like I’m soul-searching or anything like that,” he said. “I know I can bounce back.”