CLEVELAND – Following the total dismantling of his team in every way imaginable, Celtics coach Brad Stevens made the walk from courtside back to his office.
Inside was UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, someone whose teams could better relate to what Cleveland had just done to Boston than what Stevens was trying to compartmentalize.
“I picked his brain for as long as I could,” Stevens said.
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Indeed, Stevens, as well as his players, are in full-blown search mode right for something, anything that can help them make this series more competitive.
Two games into this thing and the Celtics have been blown out twice with Game 2’s 130-86 beatdown being the worst playoff loss in franchise history.
And things went from bad to worse with the news that Isaiah Thomas (right hip) will be out for the remainder of the playoffs after re-aggravating the injury in the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss.
So. if the Celtics can get smashed like that in their own building, it’s kind of scary to think what might happen now that the series has shifted to a place where the Cavs will have the full support of a Q Arena crowd that can sense Cleveland is on the cusp of a return trip to the NBA Finals.
Well aware that his team is in full control, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue isn’t about to get ahead of himself and start thinking about the NBA Finals.
“We’re going back home. We’re not going to get comfortable,” said Lue, a former Celtics assistant. “We understand that this is a good team. They’re not number one in the East for no reason. [Game 2] was one of those nights, and that’s it. We won, and we’ve got to move on. We’ve got to get focused for Game 3.”
There are so many areas where Boston has to be better just to be competitive in Game 3.
Maybe the two biggest areas are the Celtics' inability to make open shots and being too reliant on making shots as a precursor to playing good defense.
“Us having those empty offensive possessions where maybe you miss an open shot and they go down and convert, or you have an opportunity and you turn it over and they go down and convert, those things were bigger than just the three points they were scoring,” said Stevens. “I felt like they had a negative impact on kind of our look, and again, credit them.”
Despite how they've been outplayed, players still speak with an air of confidence that there’s still hope for them in this series.
“As bad as it is for us and our group right now, it’s not over yet,” said Al Horford. “We still have Game 3. It hurts right now. It’s tough. We have that to look forward to. We just want to play better. We need to go out there and play better, compete throughout the 48 [minutes] and see what happens. Our backs are against the wall, and this will be a good opportunity.”
And while the Celtics will continue to review video from Game 2 and put together a game plan from an X’s and O’s standpoint to try and combat the overwhelming momentum Cleveland has created in this series, Horford knows it’s pretty simple what has to happen right now.
“There’s no magic formula,” Horford said. “We need to just go out there and play, help each other on defense. And I’m sure that shots will fall [tonight]. The biggest thing for us defensively is to do what we do. We need to be way better. We haven’t played to our potential I feel like the first two games...just looking forward to Sunday.”