BOSTON – There’s no shame in defeat this time of year with only a handful of teams privileged enough to still have games on the docket.
And then there’s what we saw on Friday night with the Boston Celtics getting absolutely pummeled in every way imaginable by the Cleveland Cavaliers, winners of a 130-86 Game 2 blowout.
The 44-point margin of victory was the largest win by the Cavaliers ever over the Celtics (the previous record was 31 points on April 12, 2009).
And the sad part?
The Cavs could have won this game by more. . . a lot more.
“Honestly, it was just embarrassing,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “Credit to those guys. We’ll find out what kind of team we are, seeing how we respond.”
A similar cry went out prior to Game 2, a game that was viewed by most Celtics players as a “must-win” for them to have any shot at shocking the world.
Oh, they shocked the world in Game 2, but not exactly how they envisioned.
“We got our ass kicked,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown, one of the few Celtics who played at a high compete level most of the time he was on the floor. “Point blank. We didn’t come out with enough energy to start the game off, two games in a row. Defending champs, they swept us off the floor.”
After a pair of Isaiah Thomas free throws cut Cleveland’s lead to 11-10 in the first quarter, the Cavs absolutely owned the Celtics from that point on.
There were 3-pointers raining from all points on the floor.
Kevin Love was absolutely crushing the Celtics with rebounds and whatever shot he felt he needed to make.
And LeBron James was being LeBron James, getting to whatever spot on the floor he wanted to, taking whatever shot he wanted to and in doing so, buried the Celtics with a barrage of plays at both ends of the floor.
Even in the face of such an absolutely undeniable annihilation at home, Celtics players still spoke as though they still feel this series isn’t over just yet.
As Gerald Green pointed out, the Cavs still has to beat them two more times to get back to the NBA Finals.
But after these first two games, is there anyone outside the Celtics locker room who thinks this series will be back in Boston for a game 5?
Didn’t think so.
This isn’t a first for Boston in the playoffs has found itself surrounded by naysayers who point to the fact that they have not played good basketball.
Boston found itself in a similar predicament in the first round against Chicago, having lost its first two at home.
But this is so, so different.
Chicago was happy to be in the playoffs.
Earlier this week, Isaiah Thomas made reference to the Cleveland Cavaliers not being the Monstars from Space Jam.
He was right.
The Monstars found a way to lose.
Not so much.
But what Cleveland is doing isn’t just winning; they’re doing it in as demoralizing a way as possible, and thus far there’s nothing the Celtics can do about it.
“It doesn’t matter if you lose by one, forty-five or one hundred,” said Boston’s Gerald Green who got the starting nod in Game 2 but like most of his teammates, was ineffective for most of his time on the floor. “Guess what? It’s still a loss.”
The way Green sees it, Game 2 and this series as a whole, comes down to one thing: competing.
The Cavaliers are doing it at a high level.
The Celtics are not.
And with the series now shifting to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4, the odds of Boston all of a sudden turning things around seems unlikely.
“It’s not what they’re doing, it’s what we’re not doing,” Green said. “That’s the biggest thing. We know what they’re capable of doing; they’re the champs. It’s not scientific. We have to play harder.
Green added, “On Sunday, I think everybody is going to challenge each other, to compete for each other. We owe it for each other. I owe it for my next teammate. My next teammate owe it for me and he owes it for somebody else. Everybody has to go out and play better, compete more, play with more force.”