Celtics

Must-read recap: Celtics destroy Cavaliers in Game 1

Must-read recap: Celtics destroy Cavaliers in Game 1

Welcome to the first Must-Read Recap, which we'll have for the rest of the Celtics' playoff run. It's no-frills in some respects, and too-many-frills in other respects. You're gonna hate it. 

WHAT HAPPENED? 

The Celtics positively smoked the Cavaliers, 108-83, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. That's a 25-point victory. At one point, the Celtics' lead was 28. They doubled up the Cavs, 36-18, and really didn't look back. The closest the Cavs cut it was 14 points in the third quarter, but the Celtics quickly opened the lead back up for good. 

WHY'D THE CELTICS WIN BY THAT MUCH? 

Because they defended LeBron James unbelievably and got ace performances out of Jaylen Brown and Al Horford. And it's not like anyone else carried the load while LeBron was kept quiet. Cleveland had only 35 points in the first half and went 0-for-12 on 3s in that span. Hell, it took until there was 6:54 remaining in the third for a Cavalier to hit double digit points. 

Here's a pretty telling mini box score: 

Jaylen Brown: 23 points, 8 rebounds
Al Horford: 20 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds
Marcus Morris: 21 points, 10 rebounds
LeBron James: 15 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists
All other Cleveland starters: 31 points

LEBRON VS. TATUM CONN SMYTHE WATCH

Jayson Tatum's streak of 20-point games ended at seven, but he still outscored LeBron, 16-15. 

THE CAVALIERS MISSED KYRIE... 

George Hill had zero points in the first quarter. To be fair, that's as many as Kyrie had, too. George finished the game with five.

GAME STORY:

THE CELTICS MISSED KYRIE...

You might think that's a little too much and that I should have gone with one of the other several graphics I made for this bit, but though Terry Rozier defended well and contributed eight assists and six rebounds, he had a rather quiet eight points. Plus, the third quarter was where the Cavaliers made their run. Earlier in the season, that would be a classic put-Kyrie-back-in-and-ice-this-thing scenario.  

BEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE OF THE GAME

Tatum's 3-pointer with just under eight minutes to make it a 26-point game. That's when I was officially 90 percent sure they were going to win. Judge that however you'd like. 

WORST MOMENT OF MY LIFE OF THE GAME

Kevin Love put up a long 2-pointer with 3.8 seconds left in the third quarter with the Celtics holding a 16-point lead. He missed and the rebound came down to Semi Ojeleye, who turned his back to the play. He had no idea where the ball was and accidentally hit it off Marcus Smart to Jeff Green, who drained a jump shot to make it a 14-point game at the buzzer. 

WHICH KEVIN LOVE WAS KEVIN LOVE? 

First round against the Pacers Kevin Love

Love led the Cavs with 17 points (lol), but he shot 36 percent from the field and had only eight rebounds after hitting double digits in three of four games in the Raptors series. 

MORE CELTICS:

WHERE IN THE WORLD WAS STEPHEN A. SMITH? 

After mentioning that he would be at the game at seemingly each mention of the game on "First Take" this week, Stephen A. Smith was indeed at the game. He even chopped it up with Abby Chin and A. Sherrod Blakely on Pregame Live. 

IF I'M LEBRON I'M THINKING... 

That I should ask Jayson Tatum for a picture and a follow back. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

While Marcus Smart lost his composure, Celtics kept theirs for a change

While Marcus Smart lost his composure, Celtics kept theirs for a change

On a night where Marcus Smart losing his composure will dominate the headlines and highlights, it’s maybe more noteworthy that the rest of the Boston Celtics did not.

Saturday’s visit to Atlanta was exactly the sort of game the Celtics have routinely fumbled away this season. Inferior, well-rested opponent playing against a heavy-legged Boston team on the second night of a back-to-back on the road. It’s been a recipe for disaster.

Which is weird, because these sort of games used to be the ones that Brad Stevens-coached teams feasted on. While much of the league seemed content with so-called “schedule losses,” Stevens never let his team use back-to-backs or travel as a crutch for underperformance. But this year’s team simply hasn’t shown the mental toughness needed to grind through these type of games, and you need only look back to Boston getting stomped in Miami to kickstart a disastrous 0-3 road trip last week for a prime example.


So when Atlanta jumped Boston, scoring 50 points in little more than 15 minutes and opening a 16-point lead, it seemed like the Celtics might be headed for another head-shaking, momentum-breaking loss. Stevens tried desperately to inject some energy into his team, going 11 deep with his rotation, including early second-quarter playing time for third-string point guard Brad Wanamaker.

Ultimately, it was a more familiar savior, with Kyrie Irving’s late first-half offensive outburst singlehandedly dragging Boston back into the game. Smart, before his double-technical fueled ejection, helped ratchet up Boston’s defensive intensity, and the Celtics eventually rallied ahead in the final frame en route to a 113-105 triumph at State Farm Arena.

"We needed that kind of response … no question about it,” said Stevens who deemed Saturday’s triumph a “good win.”

That’s a hard sell with Atlanta’s 14-31 record. But the Hawks entered with recent wins over Philadelphia and Oklahoma City, hanging 142 points on the Thunder before enjoying three days off leading up to Boston’s visit.

There was really no reason that Boston should have been able to rally back to win this game. Especially when typical energy-infuser Smart got the heave-ho for too much gum-flapping (both to referees and opposing players). Smart nearly made a bad situation worse when he tried to charge at Atlanta’s DeAndre’ Bembry while enraged about something that was said as tempers flared following the double technical as players lined up for a jump ball.

Backup point guard Terry Rozier took the intensity baton and continued his recent trend of applying occasional full-court pressure, which disrupted the Hawks’ offense. Rozier brought the same energy to the defensive glass, grabbing a season-high 11 rebounds overall and helping a Gordon Hayward-less bench overcome its shooting woes to change the tenor of the game.

Rozier and Jaylen Brown combined to make just 7 of 22 shots but were about as impactful as any players not named Kyrie. Irving finished with 32 points, 23 of which came in the first half.

The Hawks had an offensive rating of a measly 83.3 when Brown was on the court. His plus-26.7 net rating in 28 minutes of play leaped off the NBA’s advanced stats box score. The bench also got quality minutes from Wanamaker, Semi Ojeleye, and Daniel Theis to fuel the turnaround.

Aron Baynes remains spectacular since returning from a hand injury. Boston's defensive intensity spikes when he’s on the court. In the three games since Baynes' return from a broken hand, the Celtics own an absurd net rating of plus-31.1 during his 53 minutes of court time. That number shrinks to minus-7.7 in his 91 minutes on the bench.

Jayson Tatum shrugged off a dud against Memphis to score 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, with all his attempts coming inside the 3-point arc. He added some solid defense, most notably intercepting Smart as he charged Bembry. Al Horford also ramped up his second-half defense and could be seen barking at his teammates to finish out the win after a late defensive lapse.

Saturday’s win won’t exactly be featured prominently in the 2018-19 season yearbook but it is another sign of progress for a Celtics team trying desperately to avoid the inconsistencies that plagued it for the first half of the season.

Smart now awaits his fate — be it a hefty fine or, depending on what discipline-deciders see on the tape, a brief suspension from the NBA — and he’ll have to explain how his temper got the best of him again. That’s too bad because Smart has been so solid at both ends of the floor recently that moments like this only detract from the progress he’s making.

He can find solace in the way his teammates reacted to the adversity of his exit. Boston players had every excuse to roll over and, instead, they found a way to grind out a win.

That's progress for a team that’s still shaping its identity and trying to find some of the magic of past seasons.

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Did J.R. Smith call Marcus Smart a "bum" for DeAndre' Bembry incident?

Did J.R. Smith call Marcus Smart a "bum" for DeAndre' Bembry incident?

J.R. Smith appeared to call out one of two players Saturday night on Instagram.

We think we have a pretty good guess.

After ESPN's "SportsCenter" Instagram account posted a video of Marcus Smart charging at DeAndre' Bembry during Saturday night's Boston Celtics-Atlanta Hawks game, the former Cleveland Cavaliers guard chimed in by writing "such a bum" in the comment section.

Technically, Smith's "bum" jab could be directed at Smart or Bembry. But Smith and Smart have serious history.

A quick recap: During the 2018 NBA playoffs, Smart confronted Smith after the Cavs guard pushed Al Horford while he was in the air attempting to catch an alley-oop. When Boston and Cleveland met this preseason, Smart and Smith scuffled again, and their beef continued off the court with some nasty postgame remarks and tweets.

So, it's safe to say Smith's comments aren't directed at Bembry.

Smart has bigger problems to worry about, though: His Celtics will aim for their fourth consecutive win Monday, while Smith has stepped away from the Cavs while seeking a trade.

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