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

A big summer boosts chances of Celtics trio

A big summer boosts chances of Celtics trio

BOSTON – As good as someone may look in summer league play, it should never be viewed as a sole barometer for NBA success. 

There have been countless players who dominate the floor this time of year, only to become NBA doormats when the games really count. 

More than anything else, summer league helps teams get a better feel for their bench – a place where most summer leaguers will be if they are even on a roster at all.

And the Celtics must feel pretty good about their second-unit players who were on the floor in Boston’s summer league run.

Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, and Jabari Bird were all reserves (or in the case of Bird, a two-way contract player), who are likely to have opportunities to play more prominent roles this season.

All were viewed as having a significant area in need of improvement heading into the offseason.

Ojeleye was essentially a talented defender who, offensively, was a catch-and-shoot guy who only took corner 3’s last season.

In summer league, Ojeleye put the ball on the floor more than we’ve ever seen in addition to finishing at the rim for lay-ups or dunks.

And Yabusele, who at times looked dazed and confused on the floor, was far more assertive in his decision-making – qualities he needs to display when camp starts in September and he’s competing for minutes off the bench.

Bird was the breakout star for the Celtics this summer, solidifying himself as a player who will be on someone’s NBA roster - if he’s not back in Boston - this season.

The athleticism that has been a hallmark of Bird’s game for years was on full display in Las Vegas. More than anything, he showed a heightened level of attention to detail while being consistent at both ends of the floor – traits he’ll need to display more of if he’s back with the Celtics and wants to compete for minutes off the bench.

So as Celtics fans are impressed with the strong play of Ojeleye, Yabusele, and Bird, keep in mind that all three are reserves who likely won’t be the first option off Boston’s bench this season.

Still, they have all shown skills that at a minimum, give Boston hope that when called upon, they will be ready to step up and contribute at a level greater than what we saw last season.

And as we know with all Brad Stevens-coached teams, players must always stay ready to play regardless of how deep they might be buried on the depth chart.

Ojeleye is a great example of this.

A second-round pick last year, Ojeleye played limited minutes most of the season only to find himself inserted into the Celtics’ starting lineup about midway through their first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks.

And while Yabusele saw sporadic minutes, that was in large part due to him not being effective in the minutes he was allotted. Still, the Yabusele we saw last season wasn’t nearly as mobile, athletic or impactful as the one we saw that helped Boston to a 4-2 summer league record.

Bird, on a two-way contract last season, has done enough to at least warrant serious consideration for a spot on the 15-man roster.

All three players raised the level of expectations for fans, and while it was certainly a good sign, by no means does it alone mean they are ready to make major contributions this season.

A strong showing in summer league play can certainly be part of the puzzle for a Celtics team that heads into the season as the odds-on favorite to reach the NBA Finals.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Celtics in negotiations with Marcus Smart on four-year deal

Celtics in negotiations with Marcus Smart on four-year deal

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics have been saying for weeks that Marcus Smart is their top priority during this free-agency period. 
 
Well, it looks like those words are starting to lead to the kind of action Smart and his camp have been looking for all summer. 
 
The Celtics and Smart’s agent Happy Walters are reportedly in "serious" talks about a four-year deal that would pay Smart a salary that would reportedly total somewhere in the $46-50 million range -- similar to the range in which Boston was negotiating with Smart prior to the start of this past season. 
 
While Smart’s camp went into the summer seeking a deal that would average closer to $15 million per season, league executives have consistently maintained Smart’s value was $10 million-$12 million annually. 

MORE A. SHERROD BLAKELY

Because of that figure and Smart being a restricted free agent, teams were reluctant to put forth an offer sheet that they assumed the Celtics would match unless it was north of $15 million per season -- an extremely high price for even such a talented role player as Smart. 
 
With Kawhi Leonard being traded from San Antonio to Toronto, that all but eliminated the Celtics from making any kind of roster-altering move this summer. 
 
And because of that, it made more sense to start engaging Smart’s camp in working out a multiyear deal to keep the veteran guard in the fold for years to come. 
 
A league source anticipated a deal would get done quickly for a number of reasons with one that stands out more than the others. 
 
“They want him back, and he’s made it clear he wants to come back,” the source told NBC Sports Boston. “Both sides have a better idea of what his value is, in this market now and I think they can come to a number that works for both of them.”
 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE