Celtics

LeBron and Cavs crash Paul Pierce's party with rout of Celtics

LeBron and Cavs crash Paul Pierce's party with rout of Celtics

BOSTON – So much for that uh, adjustment period for the Cleveland Cavaliers to integrate all their new players.

Cleveland was in midseason form, putting a damper of sorts on an otherwise festive mood in defeating Boston in convincing fashion, 121-99, on the day Celtics legend Paul Pierce’s jersey No. 34 was to be retired.

LeBron James only played 28 minutes, but still managed a double-double of 24 points and 10 assists and came just two rebounds shy of what would have been a third straight triple-double.

The loss, combined with the Toronto Raptors' victory in Charlotte later Sunday night, dropped the Celtics (40-18) out of the top spot in the East for the first time since October. The Raptors (39-16) lead Boston by a half-game.

The Cavs, playing their first game with the new guys acquired at the trade deadline – George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. – executed at both ends of the floor with no signs of unfamiliarity.

Meanwhile, the Celtics looked and played overwhelmed in every way, prompting a small but noticeable chorus of boos for Boston in the early goings of the fourth quarter.

Kyrie Irving had decent numbers – 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting – but at no point was he able to elevate his play to a level the Celtics needed in order to get the win.

And as the game wore on, fans were eager for its completion if for no other reason than to bring on something positive, like Pierce’s jersey retirement celebration.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens had talked about his team not playing as crisp as they need to, and how they tend to save their best play for after they get down big.

That wasn’t the case on Sunday as the Celtics came out playing with a level of aggression we usually don’t see until they fall into a double-digit hole.

Considering how much harder they were playing at the start of the game and still unable to put any real distance between themselves and the new-look Cavs, was not a good omen for what was to come.

With the score tied at 40 in the second quarter, the Cavs went on a 16-6 run.

Cleveland wasn’t done, leading by as many as 13 points in the first half before taking a comfortable 64-52 lead into halftime.

The second half saw Cleveland continue to surge ahead and emerge with a win that gives them the season series, 2-1.

While Sunday’s loss won’t necessarily be a factor if these two meet in the playoffs. But it does give the Celtics a better sense of what they will see if these two manage to face off in the postseason.

One thing is clear.

Boston has to play better, regardless of whether they have to face the Cavs again.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How will C's respond to blowout Game 3 loss?

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How will C's respond to blowout Game 3 loss?

CLEVELAND – This season has been one lesson learned after another for the Boston Celtics, a team that has taken those teachings and transformed them into better play moving forward. 

It is a trend the Celtics hope to continue tonight as they try and bounce back from a 116-86 Game 3 thrashing at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers who now trail Boston 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. 

“All season I feel like we've been learning,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “We've been put in different positions. And now we're in a position that we need to bounce back, and (tonight) we have a good opportunity.”

Boston doesn’t have a ton of experience this season when it comes to suffering double-digit losses. 

In fact, the Celtics only suffered nine losses by 10 or more points this season. 

But here’s the thing: 

You hear players on this team talk all the time about putting the last game quickly behind them, win or lose. 

Well, that has certainly been the case when they have suffered losses by 10 or more points, evident by them posting an impressive 8-1 regular season record in the games that followed double-digit defeats. 

So if the Celtics seem extremely calm right now, that’s why.

“Everybody loses games,” said Boston’s Jayson Tatum. “The NBA is such a quick turnaround that you really can't be down, especially in the playoffs.”

The Celtics will be fine in terms of their approach mentally to Game 4. The bigger issue is doing a better job of executing at both ends of the floor and doing so without being thrown off their rhythm by the crowd noise that’s pumped into the Quicken Loans Arena that players acknowledged made communicating tougher than usual in Game 3.

“It's going to be loud. But that can't be an excuse for us,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “The young guys know that. It's alright, it's one game. The one thing about this sport, you get a chance to go out there and do it again, so it's a blessing to have that opportunity.”

And for the Celtics, tonight’s game offers more than just a chance to exact some payback for a dismal Game 3 performance. It also moves them one step closer towards the NBA Final.

But make no mistake about it. 

The sting of how thoroughly the Celtics were outplayed is indeed on the minds of some players heading into tonight’s game. 

“I use it as fuel because I thought it was embarrassing,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “I thought we came out, the way I played, the way I performed, how not aggressive I was in the first half, I look at that as fuel to come out in Game 3 and be excited about it and be ready to play and ready to fight.

Brown added, “We can't look at the last game and get down on ourselves or

think we're out of the series because we lost one game. That's what the world thinks, that's what the world wants us to think, so we're going to come out and play some basketball (tonight), regardless of what anybody got to say.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

David Ortiz once came through in the clutch for Al Horford's wedding

David Ortiz once came through in the clutch for Al Horford's wedding

David Ortiz doesn't only come through in the clutch when he's in the batter's box.

He also delivers in clutch situations off the field. Take Al Horford's wedding for example. The Celtics big man had a last-minute wedding in the Dominican Republic and desperately needed a car to pick up his wife-to-be. Big Papi saved the day, sending Horford his Phantom and a driver. He even let them keep the car for a couple of days.

Horford told the story to the NBCS Camera Guys, who you should definitely follow on Twitter if you haven't already. . .

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE