Celtics

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How to snap the skid

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Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How to snap the skid

BOSTON Beating the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the NBA's worst teams, would be a major step forward for the Boston Celtics.

Yes it has come to that for the C's who return home after an 0-for-the-road stretch of games that now has them sitting on a season-worst three-game losing streak.

The way Boston (12-12) has played has put a muzzle on all that early-season chatter about them being a title contender.

At this point, no one can even say for sure that this group is even going to be in the playoffs.

If the playoffs were today, the Celtics would be the last team in as an eighth seed.

"This team is not a good team right now," C's coach Doc Rivers said of his club. "This is who we are right now. We're a 500 team. And we play like that."

The Cavaliers (5-21), losers of more games thus far this season than any team, would love to be considered a .500 ball club here in Year Three of the post-LeBron era.

While they are indeed a work in progress, there are signs that better days lie ahead for them.

Former Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving is coming into his own as one of the NBA's up-and-coming point guards, while rookie guard Dion Waiters has established himself as one of the top players in this rookie class.

And then there's veteran big man Anderson Varejao who leads the NBA in rebounding this season. He is playing at an all-star caliber level, although it's unclear if the Celtics will have to deal with himtonight.

Varejao suffered a bruised knee injury in the first quarter of Cleveland's 113-99 loss to Toronto on Tuesday. He was able to continue playing, but Cavs head coach Byron Scott expressed concern about whether he would playtonight.

A Cavaliers team official said that Varejao in addition to guard Daniel Gibson (ankle), are both game-time decisionstonight.

Their absence would certainly bolster Boston's chances at snapping their current three-game losing skid. Here are some other keys totonight's game as the Celtics look to avoid slippping below .500 for the first time since a Nov. 9 loss to Philadelphia that dropped them to 2-3 overall.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Even though Boston has struggled, the Cavaliers still view them as one of the league's better teams. That's not necessarily a good thing for Boston when you consider the Cavaliers' best play tends to come against the best teams. Of their five wins, three have come against teams that had winning records at the time.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Kyrie Irving. Irving put Rondo and the rest of the NBA on notice a year ago with his late-game heroics against the Celtics, and has done more of the same this season when healthy. His speed, strength and ability to score in a variety of ways will be a good test for Rondo.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett continues to have the fullest plate of any Celtic, and the weight of all that has hurt his ability to have the kind of impact he wants and needs. Withtonightbeing a back-to-back, it'll be interesting to see if Doc Rivers elects to trim his minutes some or sub him in and out differently than he has in the past.

STAT TO TRACK: How the Celtics defend in the first quarter will go a long way in determining whether they win tonight. This season, the Celtics are 4-1 when limiting opponents to 19 or fewer points scored in the first.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics streak comes to an end

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics streak comes to an end

0:41 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and DJ Bean discuss the Celtics 16-game winning streak being snapped by the Miami Heat.

6:05 - Tom Curran and Mike Giardi talk about Tom Brady missing practice due to an Achilles injury and Randy Moss’ chances to make the Hall of Fame.

11:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the mental and physical fatigue that the streak had on the Celtics and if there is a sense of relief that the streak is over.  

16:11 - With it being the 5th anniversary of the Butt Fumble, we compare it to other embarrassing sports moments in history. 

Little things prove costly for Celtics as streak comes to an end

Little things prove costly for Celtics as streak comes to an end

When you reflect upon Boston’s 16-game winning streak which came to an end with Miami’s 104-98 win on Wednesday, there were moments in just about every game that played a major factor in their success.

So it was only fitting that in the Miami loss, it would be a whole lot of little things that ultimately brought the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history to a screeching halt.

  • Al Horford missed a pair of free throws.
  • Marcus Smart split a pair that had he made both, would have tied the game up in the fourth quarter.
  • Jayson Tatum had his only turnover of the game, in the fourth.
  • Terry Rozier had a rebound that he could not corral and bounced off his hands out of bounds.

And that doesn’t even factor in the missed open shots and unforced turnovers that collectively played a major role in Boston’s winning streak being a thing of the past now.

“I turned it over, we missed some free throws . . . we had some unfortunate things happen,” Tatum told reporters following the loss.

MORE:

Even with the loss, the Celtics (16-3) still boast the best record in the NBA.

Kyrie Irving has elevated his all-around play to a level to where he’s legitimately in the conversation as a league MVP candidate.

Jayson Tatum has established himself as one of the league’s top rookies from his draft class.

“As you could see, they kept hitting us, hitting us, until we were knocked out,” Irving said. “They deserved that win tonight.”

Disappointed with the loss, but it was not at all surprising to head coach Brad Stevens who has been raising concerns about his team’s attention to detail for the past few games and sensed it would catch up to them sooner or later.

“I told you, we’re not as good as the 16-game win streak,” Stevens said. “But we do have a lot of resolve. I can’t say enough about our guy’s will to come back. It’s incredible we were able to erase that lead that quickly and give ourselves a chance.”

Indeed, the Celtics rallied from a double-digit deficit to come within a single point in the fourth quarter. But unlike previous games, Boston couldn’t find a path to victory.

“We’re just going to continue to learn and continue to get better,” Irving said. “It’s the same things echoed when we were winning. Just continue to get better and understand, there’s still a lot for us to accomplish going forward.

He added, “It was a good streak, and it’s finally come to an end.”

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