Coming into this series, we all knew LeBron James had a much more potent supporting cast than Dwayne Wade did. Instead of just being guys taking up space on the court, LeBron's teammates were bound to make an impact where Wade's mates could not. Mo Williams is not Carlos Arroyo. Shaquille O'Neal is not his namesake, Jermaine. You know the drill. But despite us knowing this, the reality of LeBron's supporting cast actually defeating us was not in any way easier to stomach once the reality of it began to unfold.
It's difficult to steal the spotlight away from a guy who scores 35 points, but Mo Williams managed to do just that, as his 10-point outburst midway through the third quarter overshadowed much of what LeBron did last night. It began with 5:16 left on that fast break dunk over Paul Pierce that's garnering wayyyyy too much attention right now. He followed it up with three straight jump shots, and added two free throws to cap it off. The Celtics, fresh off two Ray Allen three-pointers, led 69-58 prior to Williams's personal run, but when it was all said and done, that lead had been sliced in half in a mere two minutes and four seconds and stood at 73-68. It was the spark of desperation that the Cavaliers needed, as they proceeded to outscore the Celtics 33-20 the rest of the way.
And while Mo might be getting the love right now for his LeBron James impersonation, long before he erupted, it was Delonte West who was putting the hurt on his former team.
Back in the second quarter, while Williams was still routinely getting torched by Rajon Rondo, West accounted for a 6-0 run of his own, which severely hampered Boston's ability to stretch out what was, at the time, a 10-point lead. Let's flash back to the 9:59 mark of the second quarter. The Celtics lead the Cavaliers, 30-20. J.J. Hickson just missed the second of two free throws, yet the ball is scooped up by Jamario Moon. The play eventually ends with Antawn Jamison missing a short jumper, but another offensive rebound leads to a driving layup by West. 30-22, Celtics. 36 ticks later, West is back at it, this time with a mid-range jumper, bringing the score to 30-24. 20 seconds later, West gets out on the break, takes a pass from Moon and slams it home on the left-hand side. The score now sits at 30-26, and Boston is forced to take a full timeout.
Prior to West's antics, Boston had opened the quarter on a modest 4-0 run, and had a legitimate opportunity to stretch that lead even further with LeBron James resting on the bench. Instead, their opportunity to extend the lead was squandered, and even though they ultimately led by 11 at halftime, that lead could have potentially been closer to 15 or 18 points.
Seeing as we all know how good LeBron James is, we can live with him going on those 10-0 runs. He's that good. You learn to accept the fact that stretches like those are nothing more than great players being great. But a 10-point spurt from Mo Williams? You never want to disrespect players like him by assuming these things can't happen, but it's that much more crippling when they actually do. Because while the Celtics' lead was evaporating at the hands of other players, LeBron was still lurking, and you knew he was going to break out at some point, despite a timid first half. But instead of his talents and energy being wasted on a comeback effort, they were able to be saved for the the knockout punch, which he eventually laid down, as he scored 12 of his 35 in the fourth quarter, including that backbreaking three-pointer with 22 seconds left and the Celtics down five points.
If LeBron is going to account for the comeback and the finish, the way Wade did in Game 4 of the first round, you'll still be disappointed because it's a loss, but you give credit where credit is due. Some guys are borderline unstoppable and we all know LeBron falls into that category. But to have guys who are stoppable in West and Williams make such a significant impact is thoroughly disheartening. If the Celtics are going to win this series, they cannot allow spurts like the ones the Cavs received from West and Williams last night. LeBron's supporting cast is a legitimate one. Shutting it down will be a difficult task for the Celtics, but ultimately, it is doable.