The 2010 NBA Playoff series between the Cavaliers and Celtics is a famous one for many reasons. It’s the last series Lebron James played with the Cavaliers before leaving for Miami. It’s the series that Lebron “played weird” which led many to believe that his mother was having an affair with teammate Delonte West, one of the weirder NBA rumors out there. It was also one of the biggest upsets in recent NBA Playoffs history.
The 2010 Cleveland Cavaliers were the best team in the NBA that season with 61 wins and they earned homecourt advantage throughout the NBA Playoffs. They were the best team all season and Lebron James was solidifying himself as the best NBA player in the world.
The Boston Celtics won the championship in 2008, but were knocked out early by Orlando in 2009 and many people thought that the run was over for the big three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. They started the season big going 23-5, but then ended up slowing down and limped to the finish with a 27-27 record. By the time they played the Cavs, many thought that the “old” Celtics would not be able to keep up with Lebron James.
The opening betting odds for the series had the Cavaliers -500 to win this one and the Celtics +400 to upset. This is pretty big odds and you usually don’t see an upset at this level and after game one, you wouldn’t be expecting one.
The Cavaliers took Game 1 101-93, overcoming an 11-point deficit in the second half to grab the win. Everything you thought about the Cavs was true at this point. Then Game 2 happened and the Celtics stormed back big, winning 104-86 on the back of a huge 31-12 third quarter and the Celtics grabbed home court.
At this point, everyone was expecting a good series but still had the Cavs winning this and Game 3 solidified that point of view. The Cavs went into Boston, one of the toughest arenas in the NBA, and handed the Celtics their worst home loss in playoff history 124-95. Lebron James had 21 in the first quarter and 38 for the game. Paul Pierce called the loss “embarrassing” and the Celtics changed from this point on.
The Celtics came back with a 97-87 win thanks to a gigantic game from Rajon Rondo who went for 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists. The series was now tied 2-2 and, despite the loss, many still thought that the Cavaliers would eventually get this thing done with the series heading to Cleveland for the next game.
Game 5 is the game that everyone points to when they call Lebron James a choker or talk about the Delonte West rumors. It is probably the weirdest game of his career. The Celtics absolutely dominated them with a 120-88 win, but the real story was Lebron. Despite playing 41 minutes (why did he play 41 minutes in a 32 point loss again?) he only had 15 points, 7 assists and six rebounds. He shot 3-14 from the field and was a -22 =/-. Maybe he just had a bad game or he wanted the team to pick him up, maybe this is when he knew he would go to Miami. It’s impossible to know, but this will always be one of the weirdest NBA games of all-time.
The series headed back to Boston for Game 6 and the old Lebron James was back. 29 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists was amazing from him, but it wasn’t enough as the Celtics won 94-85 and took the series.
There were many articles and quotes about those last few games. Many accused the Cavs of quitting in the series, including their owner Dan Gilbert. The Celtics would go on to lose the Finals to the Lakers and Lebron James would move on to Miami.
We’ll never know what exactly happened in that series, but the Celtics +400 were a great bet.