Celtics

Slumping Celtics need to pick up the pace

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Slumping Celtics need to pick up the pace

BOSTON -- The fact that Boston has lost three of its last four games isn’t reason enough to hit the panic button.
 
But considering the Celtics fell behind by at least 26 points in each of the losses is indeed reason for concern as the Celtics near the All-Star break, the unofficial halfway point of the season.
 
With Paul Pierce being honored Sunday with a retirement ceremony in which his jersey number 34 was raised to the rafters, it led to folks glossing over -- to some degree -- the carnage that the Cavaliers and their new-look lineup left in the wake of their 121-99 whipping of the C's.
 
While there was plenty of material to muse over in explaining how decisive this latest beating was for Boston, the Celtics’ lack of pace seems to be a common theme in the last three losses.
 
“Offensively we need to have more pace to what we do,” said Al Horford. 
 
He’s right.
 
This season, Boston’s PACE (number of possessions per game) is 98.17, which ranks 22nd in the NBA. The last four games has seen Boston’s PACE (98.19, 22nd in the league) remain virtually the same. 
 
Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 121-99 loss to Cleveland.


 
KYRIE IRVING

Teams have raised their physicality against the Celtics, and the center of that focus has been Kyrie Irving. He is still producing at a fairly efficient clip, but the Cavaliers did a good job of limiting the volume of shot attempts by either keeping the ball out of his hands or sending help defending him early and often. He had 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting which is good for most players. But for what this team needs on a nightly basis, that’s just not good enough. 


 
STEADY AGGRESSION LACKING

Boston began the game with a heightened and undeniable edge, showcasing an aggressive brand of basketball we normally don’t see from the Celtics unless they're down by double digits. And when that didn’t put the Cavs on their heels early on, Boston began getting away from what kept the game close in the first quarter and, thus, led to Cleveland taking control of the game in the second quarter and never letting up. 


 

LACK OF GAME-CHANGING DEPTH

One of the reasons Boston has been able to weather the storms of huge deficits and still manage to win games is that someone invariably delivers a game-altering performance that sparked the team. It’s not a coincidence that Boston has struggled finding players to fill that void lately. Two of the best Celtics at doing that this season has been Marcus Smart (above) and Shane Larkin, but both are out with injuries and won't be back until sometime after the All-Star break.

TATUM FACTOR


When it comes to scoring, one of the more telling factors in whether the Celtics win or lose can be found in Tatum’s point total. In Sunday’s loss to Cleveland, Tatum had nine points. This season, the Celtics are 31-9 when Tatum scores in double figures, and just 9-9 when he doesn’t.

CLEVELAND’S NEW (AND IMPROVED) LOOK


Sunday was our first look at the new-look Cavaliers. No matter how you may feel about LeBron James and the Cavs, the moves they made at the trade deadline will make them a much better regular-season team. But with so many of the new guys dealing with expectations for success for the first time, there are still questions as to how this new group will fare when it comes to what matters most -- getting back to the NBA Finals. The Celtics have several new faces as well, and they too will have to prove their worth in the postseason. But the big difference is Boston’s new guys have had an 82-game schedule to get familiar with one another. The Cavs have two months to figure things out. But give them credit. They made an impressive debut, for sure. 
 

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Deeply unhappy recap: Celtics lose Game 7, Cavs headed to finals

Deeply unhappy recap: Celtics lose Game 7, Cavs headed to finals

WHAT HAPPENED?

The Celtics launched a bazillion 3s and they only had one guy who could hit them. 

SO THEY LOST? 

Yes. They jumped out to a big lead and stopped scoring in the second quarter. Cavs are in the NBA finals.

WHAT WAS THE SCORE? 

Cavs had 80-something and the Celtics had 70-something. Low-scoring game. Look it up if you care that much. (Editor's note: Cavs' win, 87-79.)

WAS TATUM GOOD? 

Tatum was unbelievable. He had 24 points and seven rebounds. He also dunked on LeBron then bumped him. It was beautiful. He also got called for a foul every time he even thought about being near LeBron. 

WAS ANYONE ELSE GOOD?

Won't sugarcoat it: Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier -- two of the Celtics most important offensive players -- were dreadful offensively. They combined to go 7-for-32 from the field and 3-for-22 on 3s. Rozier took 10 3s and missed all of them. He finished with four points. Four. 

Marcus Smart also shot really poorly. One of 10 from the field, missing all four of his attempted 3s. 

Al Horford was OK. He had 17 points but only four rebounds. 

LESSON TO BE TAKEN FROM THIS

Don't make Photoshops after the first quarter. 

WHAT'D LEBRON DO? 

Played the entire game. Had 35, 15 and nine. Relax. 

WORST MOMENT OF MY LIFE OF THE GAME

With the Celtics down four with 2:34 to play, Marcus Morris missed his second of two free throws, but Marcus Smart for the rebound. Morris would take a 3 and miss, but Smart got the offensive rebound again. Then Rozier missed a 3. That's the kind of game it was. Just taking 3s and missing them. 

WORST MOMENT OF MY LIFE OF THE GAME

When Jeff Green tied the game in the third quarter with a floater and foul shot made. 

WORST MOMENT OF MY LIFE OF THE GAME

When Jeff Green scored any of his 19 points.

JEFF GREEN HAD 19 POINTS? 

Yes, I said he did. Go read a box score if you have so many questions.  

HOW MUCH DID THE CELTICS MISS KYRIE? 

More than anyone has ever missed anything or anyone ever. Terry Rozier had four points. 

BUT JEFF GREEN HAD 19? 

 

ONLY THING CLOSE TO A SILVER LINING

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LeBron James powers Cavaliers to NBA Finals past Celtics in Game 7

LeBron James powers Cavaliers to NBA Finals past Celtics in Game 7

BOSTON – LeBron James did it ... again.

The Boston Celtics had home court advantage, and with it a number of opportunities to do what no team has done in nearly a decade which is send LeBron James home without a trip to the NBA Finals. 

Maybe it was their youth; maybe the moment was too big. 

Regardless, Boston had its chances and blew it time and time again in Game 7. 

James, as we've seen so many times, made them pay for it. 

And the Celtics will have all summer to think about it after dropping an 87-79 Game 7 loss to the Cavs who are now on to the NBA Finals where they will face the winner of the Houston/Golden State series that wraps up tomorrow.

MORE CELTICS:

Trailing 59-56 after three quarters of play, the Celtics were looking to do what no team has done in this Eastern Conference finals with Cleveland – take the lead in the fourth quarter. Boston would regain the lead, but like most of their success in Game 7 it didn’t last long as the Cavs made the most of the Celtics’ missed opportunities to escape with the victory. 

James, who played every minute of Game 7, led all players with a near triple-double of 35 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

Meanwhile, the Celtics got a strong performance from Jayson Tatum who finished with a team-high 24 points.  Al Horford had a solid night with 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting.

But beyond those two, the rest of the Celtics core players struggled mightily when it came to knocking down shots, contested or wide open.

It brings a disappointing end to a season that has been filled with the Celtics overcoming the loss of key players and injuries to finish with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and just as important, a blueprint for what will likely be one of the top teams in the East for the next few years.

None of that matters right now in this moment, with the pain of not getting to the NBA Finals still fresh in the minds of Celtics Nation and obviously, the players too.

The first signs of things falling apart for Boston came in the second quarter.

Boston ended the second with a wide open missed 3-pointer by Brown, a play that in many ways symbolized how they closed out the first half with several opportunities to increase their lead.

You had a feeling it would come back and bite them, which it did in the third quarter as Cleveland went on a 15-4 run to lead 56-51.

Following a Boston miss by Marcus Smart, he was able to corral the loose ball and score to make it a one-possession game again, 56-53, with 2:55 to play in the third which led to a time-out by Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue. 

Boston would eventually tie the game up with a trio of free throws, but a 3-pointer by James would prove to be the difference in the quarter which ended with the Cavs ahead 59-56.

With fast starts often dictating the outcome in this series, Boston had to feel pretty good about how things played out in the first few minutes.

MORE CELTICS:

The Celtics opened the game with an 11-4 run led by Tatum scoring seven points during the spurt. Following a Cleveland timeout, the Cavs responded with a 12-4 run of their own to take a 16-15 lead.

It didn’t last long as the Celtics' Marcus Morris, defended by Cleveland’s Kyle Korver, scored on a lay-up to put the Celtics back on top. 

Morris’ basket was part of an 11-2 run by Boston to end the first quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 26-18.

Boston would push its lead to as many as 12 points (35-23) in the second quarter, only for the Cavs to counter with a 12-2 run following a 3-pointer by J.R. Smith that cut Boston’s lead to 37-35.

The Celtics continued to play with a lead as the half ended with Boston ahead 43-39.

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