Five takeaways from C's loss to Cavs: Still a ways to go
Five takeaways from Celtics’ loss to Cavs: Still a ways to go
BOSTON – The way Thursday night’s game between the Celtics and Cavaliers was going, it’s understandable if folks started to flip to another channel at some point in the third quarter.
Imagine their surprise to find out that the Celtics not only made it a game, but had a chance to take the lead with less than 10 seconds to play, before ultimately losing, 124-118.
Thursday night was yet another reminder of how resilient this Celtics team can be. But it also proved once again that this team still has lots of room to grow if they are to be among the last teams standing in the East.
“When you make mental error after mental error on the court, those guys will make you pay,” Boston’s Jae Crowder told reporters after the loss. “We have to take that out of the game. Once we get that taken care of, we’ll put ourselves in better position to win.”
Here are five other takeaways from Thursday’s game:
RARE BAD GAME FOR HORFORD
He has been praised repeatedly by both teammates, the Celtics coaching staff and most of the media since his arrival in Boston. But the 6-foot-10 Horford, a four-time All-Star, is going to have nights that are less than memorable. The Houston loss when he missed a layup in the closing seconds? That was one of them. And Thursday’s loss to Cleveland? Yup. That’s another one, too. Horford had just six points on 2-for-6 shooting with one rebound, four assists and a pair of blocked shots. Boston doesn’t need him to score 25 or 30 points a night, but six points, no matter who the opponent may be, is simply not going to be enough to get it done against most teams, alone the defending NBA champion.
THOMAS CAN SCORE VS. CAVS
Ever since Cleveland’s four-game sweep of the Celtics in the playoffs in 2015, it brought to light how Isaiah Thomas has not really scored the ball all that well against the Cavs. A career 17.9 points per game scorer against the Cavs, Thomas had arguably his most efficient game against them on Thursday while scoring a team-high 31 points on 8-for-13 shooting.
Boston’s much-maligned second unit was the biggest reason Thursday night’s loss wasn’t a blowout. They came in to essentially run out the game clock in the third quarter, and wound up running the Cavs to the point where Cleveland’s 20-point was a Jae Crowder 3-ball away from being totally wiped out. The backups wound up scoring 45 points with Jonas Jerebko (12 points) and Marcus Smart (nine points, five assists, two steals) leading the way.
GREEN LIGHT REMAINS LIT
We all know when Gerald Green gets hot, you ride that for as long as you can. That’s exactly what the Celtics are doing with the veteran guard/forward still in the team’s regular rotation. He was being his instant-offense self on Thursday, scoring eight points in 16 minutes although most of his scoring damage was done shortly after he checked into the game.
CELTICS NOT AN ELITE TEAM YET
Most of us felt this way, but a victory at Cleveland would have certainly provided fodder for some to believe that maybe, just maybe, the Celtics are among the upper echelon teams in the NBA. They don’t defend hard enough and long enough to be an unquestioned member of that elusive fraternity. And on those nights when they seem to be all over the map and not sticking to the game plan (which is what happened on Thursday), they need someone to step up and settle everyone down. Isaiah Thomas? Al Horford? Jae Crowder? Marcus Smart? There’s a long line of possible players who have the skills and talents to step into that role and fill it. But until that player emerges and the defense plays with a chip on its shoulder all the time, and not just when they’re getting blasted by 20, this team will remain outside of the inner circle of the title-contending, elite NBA teams.