Celtics

Celtics demolished by Cavs in Game 2, 130-86

Celtics demolished by Cavs in Game 2, 130-86

BOSTON – The final shot of the first half was indicative of how the game played out.

Cleveland had a rare miss that was tracked down by J.R. Smith.

He out-hustled a couple of Celtics to the loose ball, raised up along the baseline, clearly off-balance … SWISH!

It was that kind of game for the Boston Celtics, suffering a humiliating 130-86 loss to the defending champion Cleveland Cavs.

How bad was it?

Smith’s buzzer-beating shot gave Cleveland a 72-31 lead at the half. The 41-point margin was the largest playoff deficit any team faced in the first half of a game during the modern shot clock era.

And when it came to Boston’s struggles, no one had more problems with the Cavs defense than Isaiah Thomas who missed all six of his shots in the first half with his only points coming on a pair of free throws.

Finishing with just two points, Thomas was unable to return in the second half because of a right hip injury. His status for Game 3 on Sunday is unclear.

What is clear is Boston has quite a ways to go before they can compete let alone beat the Cavaliers who are getting stronger and stronger as they now find themselves just two wins away from a return trip to the NBA Finals and a shot at repeating as NBA champions.

Boston made a lineup change prior to tip-off, with Amir Johnson out and Gerald Green in.

The Celtics had made a similar move in their first-round series against Chicago, a move that paid off with a nice five-game winning streak with Green starting.

Boston’s lineup change rendered a similar result with Cleveland dominating in every way imaginable for most of the night.

The frustration of the beatdown took its toll on several Celtics, who were treading in quicksand with one forced shot after another, clearly trying to be the spark to get them back to at least playing competitive basketball.

Thomas picked up a technical foul at the 10:48 mark of the second quarter.

And 11 seconds prior to Thomas’ technical, the usually cool-as-they-come Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was whistled for one as well.

Boston showed flashes early on that maybe just maybe, we might actually have a decent game.

The Celtics opened on the short end of a 9-2 run, only to bounce back with an 8-2 spurt fueled by back-to-back 3’s by Green. After a pair of free throws by Thomas (his only points of the game), the Cavs called a time-out with 6:35 in the first quarter, with an 11-10 lead.

Cleveland’s stoppage of play seemed to be just what the Cavs needed to re-start their dominance at both ends of the floor as they went on a 12-0 run to lead 23-10.

Boston found itself in a familiar spot against the Cavs who used a dominant first half in Game 1 to propel themselves to a 117-104 win.

The Cavs continued to pour on the points, while the Celtics were seemingly helpless to do anything about it.

And the end result was one of the most lopsided playoff games in the modern shot clock era (1954-1955).

6 ways Celtics benefit from Marcus Smart's potential return for Game 6

6 ways Celtics benefit from Marcus Smart's potential return for Game 6

MILWAUKEE – With a possible Game 6 return for Marcus Smart, there’s no question that would be a good thing for the Boston Celtics. 

Well, here are six ways having Smart back in the lineup can help aid Boston which is currently tied at two games apiece with the Bucks. 

Defensive versatility: At 6-foot-4 with a strong build, Marcus Smart gives Boston another body to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the two players who have given the Celtics the biggest problems thus far in this series.

Additional ball-handler: The Milwaukee Bucks have tried to mix up their pressure defensively with an occasional full-court press of the Celtics. Smart is a combo guard who has shown tremendous growth this season as a floor leader with the ability to impact the game both as a scorer and facilitator.

Leadership: As the most tenured member of the roster, Marcus Smart has a high love of respect from his teammates. Not only because of his seniority with the franchise, but also because of the way he plays the game and his teammate’s understanding of how much he means to Boston when it comes to winning.

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Increased roster depth: Injuries devastated the Celtics’ roster heading into the playoffs. So a return of Smart would give Boston 12 healthy bodies. It may not seem like that big a deal. But as we’ve seen with this series, every available body matters when it comes to finding a pathway toward the second round of the playoffs for these teams.

Less pressure on Rozier: The first two games of this series really put a positive spotlight on Terry Rozier. The last two games, both losses for Boston, have featured Rozier struggling at both ends of the floor. Having Smart back would lighten Rozier’s plate some and in doing so, could better position him to be closer to the game-changing, difference-maker we saw in Games 1 and 2.

Playbook expansion: Having Marcus Smart back in the lineup gives head coach Brad Stevens a lot more options at both ends of the floor, which could be just what the Celtics need to limit Milwaukee’s 1-2 punch of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, as well as the Bucks bench which has been the better unit of two, in Games 3 and 4.

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Marcus Smart says he's 'strong enough to get back out there'

Marcus Smart says he's 'strong enough to get back out there'

MILWAUKEE – With Boston’s 104-102 Game 3 loss to Milwaukee, the Celtics are guaranteed a return trip to Milwaukee for Game 6 later this week.

At that point in the series, both team’s depth will be an issue.

Boston’s depth hasn’t been great, but it potentially could be better if Marcus Smart is cleared to play following a right thumb injury suffered last month.

The 6-foot-4 guard will have a check-up on Tuesday and if he’s cleared to resume practicing with the team, that would pave the way for him to be available to play in Game 6 on Thursday.

“That’s the plan. We’re still on the same track,” Smart said.

Smart has been working diligently with the training staff since he had his right thumb surgically repaired last month.

“I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there,” Smart said. “I’m just waiting for the OK.”

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In the meantime, Smart has been walking around with one type of splint to help insure that he doesn’t accidentally bump his thumb and potentially do damage to it. That splint is different than the one he will play with upon getting cleared to return to action. While the idea of playing with a splint may not seem ideal, Smart said he’s comfortable shooting with it.

Before playoff games 2, 3 and 4 of this series with Boston, Smart has been on the floor prior to the game working on his perimeter shooting, dribble-drive, pull-ups, free throws and pretty much anything he does shooting-wise during a game. Smart has also worked on his conditioning, lateral quickness drills and other work to help strengthen his core, all done with him returning sooner rather than later. 

But ultimately, it is Smart's comfort level with his right hand and the splint that he'll play with, that will determine what kind of impact one can expect once he returns to action. 

“It feels like it’s nothing there,” Smart said of playing with the splint. “To have that comfortability in my dominant hand, my shooting hand, that’s a good feeling to have.”

Smart, who has distinguished himself as Boston’s top perimeter defender, has appeared in 54 games for the Celtics this season. The fourth-year guard averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds this season while playing 29.9 minutes per game.

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