Celtics

Turnovers, poor defense doom Celtics

656162.jpg

Turnovers, poor defense doom Celtics

BOSTON -- It wasnt the Celtics first loss to the season. In fact, it was their tenth. But after Sundays last-minute defeat by the Cleveland Cavaliers, it seemed like one of the worst.

I could put all sorts of sprinkles on top of this cupcake, Kevin Garnett said following the Cavs 88-87 win. I dont know a guy thats in here that wasnt very, very distraught and upset today.

The Celtics entered the game on a four-game winning streak. They held a 70-62 lead after three quarters and built their edge up to 11 points with four minutes and 25 seconds to go.

Then, it fell apart.

The Cs did not score the rest of the game as the Cavaliers closed out the fourth on a 12-0 run. Rookie Kyrie Irving scored six points and Anderson Varejao added four during the stretch while the Celtics committed three turnovers.

After Irving connected on a driving layup to give the Cavs a one-point lead with 2.6 seconds left, Paul Pierce failed to get a shot off at the buzzer.

The defense just didnt step up, said Pierce, who expressed frustration in the fact that he played less than four minutes in the final quarter. We allowed more points in the fourth quarter than we did all game, and the turnovers really came to bite us. I turned the ball over too much today. Turnovers really came back to bite us today. We shot 50 percent, they shoot 43, but thats the difference in the game. We turned the ball over too many times.

Had the Celtics played consistently throughout the fourth quarter, the game would not have come down to a final shot. But their scoring freeze gave a Cavaliers team led by a offensively-savvy rookie the momentum they needed to take this game back.

It seemed like we didnt get to our spots and we didnt execute where we needed to execute down the stretch, said Ray Allen. I thought we did a good job of it all game but I think we scored 17 in the fourth. I dont believe we gave ourselves a chance to score. We had opportunities but we didnt make the best of them. We had those looks. With the lead that we, if we got stops it wouldnt have mattered if we had scored on offense.

The Celtics will face the Cavaliers on Tuesday in Cleveland. There is no redemption -- Sundays loss is on their record no matter what happens the next game -- but the Cs will enter that contest knowing they have to play a full 48 minutes. They saw what happened when they dont.

I also thought we let our guard down, said Doc Rivers. I told our guys, Think about down the stretch, the last five minutes, how many cute plays we made. No-look passes, behind-the-back passes, and they got deflected and we didnt score on them. You lose games this way. This was a bad loss for us. Not that it was Cleveland, it was that we had the game under control and we didnt take care of it.

Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

cp-spark-bruins-rask-khudobin-102317x.jpg

Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

The entire concept of Tuukka Rask getting pushed by one of his backups is based on the backup consistently performing at a high standard, and that wasn’t the case for Anton Khudobin over the weekend.

Just as it isn’t solely the fault of Rask when the Bruins lose, it wasn’t solely the fault of Khudobin that Boston squandered leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in an overtime loss to Buffalo on Saturday night. But Khudobin couldn’t step up and carry the B's when they clearly started losing their edge in the second half of the game, and that inconsistency will certainly make the Bruins pine for a sooner-rather-than-later return of a concussed Rask.

“Erratic,” said coach Bruce Cassidy when asked to describe Khudobin postgame. “He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. He certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him. But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.”

It was certainly too much to expect Khudobin to be perfect, but they just needed him to be good enough to pull them through while they were getting waylaid in the second half of the game. That proved to be a major challenge, given the players the Bruins are missing and the extremely rough night suffered by Torey Krug (minus-3 on Saturday night, and minus-8 for the season). Khudobin finished with 37 stops as a defense corps without Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller wilted in the third period and the overtime, but he couldn’t make the clean saves for whistles when the team really needed them. Case in point was a Rasmus Ristolainen tester in overtime while the Bruins were in the midst of being outshot by a 6-0 margin in the extra session. Khudobin got a glove on it but couldn’t cleanly catch it for a badly needed stoppage in play at a time when Krug, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had been caught on the ice for over two minutes.

"The start was great, and the game was great until we scored the fourth goal, and I think after that, we thought it was an easy game,” said Khudobin. “[The high volume of shots] wasn’t that much difficult, I like shots, like probably every other goalie, but they were crashing the net. They were going hard. There were a lot of deflections, a lot of rebounds, a lot of scrums in front of the net, which were . . .that’s the dangerous part, not just the shots.”

Khudobin, 31, has taken five of a possible six points in the games he's played this season and is off to a solid start with a 2-0-1 record, a 2.98 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He looks like he’s going to be a perfectly fine backup, enabling the Bruins to hold Rask to the 55-60 games they’ve forecasted for his peak performance this season.

But Saturday night was a major blow to any hopes that Rask would be pushed competitively by his backup, and that a Khudobin hot streak could spark a slow-starting, and now injured, Rask when he does return.

Instead the Bruins are left to hope they can survive while missing Rask along with a number of other key players, and that the goalie returns sooner than later to a team that can’t survive too many morale-crushing defeats like the choke job against the lowly Sabres.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE