For five games, it was Cleveland's inability to guard Boston that was the primary problem, culminating in the 120-point thrashing they suffered in Game 5.
On Thursday, however, the Cavs actually defended well. Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo still broke loose, just as they have all series, despite the ineffectual maneuver of switching Shaquille O'Neal onto Garnett. However, Cleveland shut down the other Celtics to the tune of 94 points on 100 possessions. That's more than good enough to win the game -- even the best defenses surrender slightly more than a point per possession. Granted, this was done partly with Boston's help -- the Celtics missed 12 foul shots and shot 5-of-17 on 3s -- but the game was theirs for the taking if the offense did its part.
Offensively, however, the Cavs were disastrous, especially in the second half. Cleveland got to the break in decent shape thanks to a 20-point first half from Mo Williams, but scored only 36 points after halftime. While there's a laser focus on LeBron James' performance, he and Williams were the only two scorers who did anything.
The other Cavaliers were 12-of-44 from the field, including 2-of-10 from Antawn Jamison -- acquired at midseason to be the final piece of Cleveland's keep-LeBron-at-all-costs puzzle as he enters his free agent year.
And of course, there were the turnovers -- 24 of them, nearly a quarter of the Cavs' possessions. An average figure is barely half that. The Cavs struggled even when they kept the ball, as they misfired on 3s (5-of-17), missed 10 foul shots of their own and shot only 41.1% inside the arc. LeBron, of course, was a major contributor with nine turnovers, and he once again struggled from outside; over the final two games he was three-of-19 from the field.
We should mention, of course, that the Cavs were not playing this game in a vacuum. Boston is one of the league's elite defensive teams, ranking fifth in Defensive Efficiency this year and pushing for the top spot for most of the year. They were probably due for a performance like this, even against one of the league's best offensive sides.
Nonetheless, the big takeaway is that the Cavs once again didn't have enough help to pull LeBron James through, and that could be a major influence on his decision-making when he becomes a free agent this summer.
The subplots were different -- last year they couldn't provide enough support despite a brilliant conference finals from James, while this time it was the case that they couldn't lift him up when he was struggling. But on a night when James shook off his elbow woes long enough to at least play pretty decently, his teammates didn't. As a result, the Cavs dropped a game that should have been theirs for the taking.