Short-handed Celtics' rally falls short in 128-122 loss to Cavs

Short-handed Celtics' rally falls short in 128-122 loss to Cavs

CLEVELAND – Even with a healthy roster, the Boston Celtics would have had their hands full in knocking off the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Q Arena. 

No Al Horford. 

No Jae Crowder. 

Regardless of who suits up for the Celtics, their effort will not be questioned. 

And they once again delivered a gritty performance in rallying from 20 points down in second half to within five points in the fourth quarter. 

But the Cavaliers proved to be too much when it mattered most as they held on for a 128-122 win over the Celtics. 

Cavaliers 128, Celtics 122

After Avery Bradley cut Cleveland’s lead to 109-104 with less than six minutes to play, the Cavs scored four quick points that seemed to stymie whatever momentum the Celtics had. 

But the Celtics weren’t about to call it a night just yet, especially rookie Jaylen Brown. 

Making his first NBA start filling in for an injured Jae Crowder, Brown had a career-high 17 points which included a fourth quarter 3-ball that cut Cleveland’s lead to 113-107. 

Boston refused to go away as they began to get into a game of swapping baskets which is not what they needed.

Ultimately the Cavaliers just had too much offensive firepower in the game's final minutes in order for Boston to make a full comeback. 

When the NBA schedule came out, this was viewed as one of the premier games in the East, a potential Eastern Conference preview. 

But without two of Boston’s key starters, the big-time matchup so many anticipated never came to fruition. 

And what folks were left with was a Celtics team, scrappy as ever, fighting to just stay within striking distance of a Cavaliers team that is playing great basketball in this first month of the season. 

Boston’s injuries led to rookie Brown making his first NBA start.

Brown was actually one of the better performers for Boston, which is saying a lot considering he spent most of the time trying to defend LeBron James. 

Taken with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, Brown did a surprisingly solid job defensively to start the game against James who was scoreless during Brown's first stint guarding him. But James eventually got the best of him and the rest of the Celtics as he finished with a double-double of 30 points and 12 assists.

But James knew on this night, knowing how undermanned the Celtics were, there was no need for him to exert his will on the game. 

Instead, he passed that torch along to his teammates like Kyrie Irving (23 points) and Kevin Love (26 points).

Boston kept things mildly interesting in the third quarter, seemingly one big shot or defensive stop away from putting a little pressure on the Cavaliers. 

But in each instance, Cleveland got exactly what it needed. 

Defensive rebound. Blocked shot. Turnover. Jumper.

It didn’t matter. 

The Cavs had an answer for every mini-surge put on by the Celtics. 

And near the end of the third quarter, the Cavs seemed focused on putting Boston away as they pushed their lead up to 20 points and wound up settling for a 100-83 lead after three quarters.

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

1:31 - With the results of Kyrie Irving’s second opinion on he knee looming, the Celtic’s season is certainly up in the air. A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Mannix, Kyle Draper and Gary Tanguay debate how and if Kyrie should be used if he returns.

6:02 - Back in October Michael Felger prematurely said the Bruins season was over. The B’s marketing team featured Felger in an ad for playoff tickets now that the Bruins have clinched the playoffs. Felger, Trenni and Gary react to the commercial and discuss the Bruins playoff chances.

11:47 - The Patriots are making moves! on Tursday the Pats made deals with LaAdrian Waddle, Marquis Flowers and Patrick Chung. Phil Perry, Michael Holley, Troy Brown and Tom Curran discuss how despite these moves, the Patriots should still be in search of a left tackle.

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

File Photo

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

BOSTON – We live in a world filled with success stories that came about by accident. 

The invention of the microwave oven.

Post-It notes.

The creation of potato chips.

The Boston Celtics’ game-winning play against Oklahoma City earlier this week qualfies; a play in which there were multiple miscues made by the Celtics prior to Marcus Morris’ game-winning shot. 


All these Celtics injuries have made Brad Stevens a mad scientist of sorts with some unusual lineups that may be on display tonight against the guard-centric Portland Trail Blazers. 

In Boston’s 100-99 win over the Thunder on Tuesday, we saw Stevens utilize a lineup with Al Horford and Greg Monroe, in four different stints.

Monroe, who had 17 points off the bench - the most he has scored as a Celtic -  enjoyed playing with Horford.

“Al’s so smart. He’s seen it all in this league,” Monroe told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s an all-star. Very cerebral player, unselfish. So it’s easy playing with him. He can space, drive, make plays. I feel like I can make plays, driving. It’s fun playing with him. I look forward to getting out there with him more.”

Horford had similar praise for playing with Monroe.

“Coach (Brad Stevens) made a great move bringing Greg back in, in the fourth, playing us together,” Horford said. “He made some great plays, passing the ball and just … timely plays. It’s one of those things, the more we play with each other the more comfortable we’ll get. I thought it was very positive.”

Monroe’s role has become significantly more important with the season-ending injury (torn meniscus, left knee) to Daniel Theis. And his ability to play well with various lineups will only improve Boston’s chances of weathering this latest storm of injuries which comes on the eve of the playoffs. 

And while there’s a certain amount of pleasure all players take in being on a playoff-bound team, Monroe understands better than most NBA veterans just how special it is to be headed towards the postseason.

In his eighth season, this will only be Monroe’s second time participating in the playoffs. 

The first time? 

That was last year, with the Milwaukee Bucks. 

“This is what everybody plays for, I hope,” Monroe said. “This is what I play for, to get into the postseason, make a run. It’s the best situation. I’ve been through a lot in my career, this year. I’m grateful. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team.”

And he has done that lately.

Monroe comes into tonight’s game having scored in double figures each of the last four games, a season high for the 6-foot-11 center. 

Having spent most of his NBA career watching instead of participating in the playoffs, Monroe is out to prove that he can in fact be a significant contributor to a team that’s postseason-bound.

“For sure. You have to have a little chip, a little fire, at least in my eyes,” Monroe said. “I’ve never doubted myself. It’s about being between those lines and being the best player I can be. That’s what I’m focused on.”