Cavs latest team to beat slumping Celtics

987509.jpg

Cavs latest team to beat slumping Celtics

CLEVELAND A three game losing streak. The Boston Celtics' biggest homer, head coach Doc Rivers, threatening to push for new players if things don't change soon.

So how did the C's respond against the 10-32 Cleveland Cavaliers?

As if the rhetoric from their coach and the losing ways meant nothing.

For most of the game, it was an emotionless, passionless performance by the Celtics, symbolic of how they have played all season.

And the Cavaliers took the C's lethargic play and used it to their advantage in pulling out a 95-90 win.

There were mental breakdowns, defensive lapses, poor shot selection - just about anything and everything that can be done to lose a game, the Celtics did on Tuesday.

Trailing 88-87, the Celtics had a chance to regain the lead only to have Kevin Garnett's fade-away jumper come up short.

Moments later, Kyrie Irving sprinted down court and finished an acrobatic lay-up to give the Cavs a 3-point lead with 52 seconds to play. He finished with 40 points.

Boston called a time-out, and had plenty of time to still win the game.

But the way their season has gone, the way they played on this particular night, there was little optimism outside of their huddle that they could still win the game.

And true to form, the Celtics squandered an opportunity to potentially tie the game or trim it to one point when Rajon Rondo missed a driving lay-up.

Garnett committed a foul moments later, and this game's outcome became a formality at that point.

As has been the case all season, the Celtics showed flashes of the promise that Rivers has been looking for all season.

But they were once again too few and too far between one another to make a serious impact on the game.

Boston (20-21) led on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter, but simply could not do the little things - box out, don't turn the ball over, make open shots - that have to be done in order to win.

Although Tuesday's game wasn't decided until the final minutes of play, Cleveland was the latest team to get off to a good start with Cavs Kyrie Irving leading the charge.

The reigning Rookie of the Year award winner had 19 first-quarter points which was key to the Cavs leading 31-27 after the first.

Keeping the C's from getting blown out the gym was rookie Jared Sullinger.

Sullinger, who grew up in nearby Columbus, OH, had six points and seven rebounds in his first eight minutes on the floor. He had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the game.

His play was instrumental in the C's pulling ahead by as many as four points in the second quarter, only for Cleveland to regain the lead shortly after Irving re-entered and take a slim 54-53 lead into the half.

The inconsistent play that has been the identity of this Celtics team, was on full display once again.

There were moments in which the execution from defense to offense was seamless. But far too often the Celtics would do what they want defensively, only to take a bad or ill-advised shot. And when there was great ball movement offensively and it resulting in a Celtics basket, often the defense was break down and allow Cleveland an easy score.

The Cavs came into the game ranked dead-last in assists per game this season, with 19.4 per game. At the half, Cleveland had 13 assists.

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

BOSTON -- There was a bomb threat to the Boston Celtics’ team plane to Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon, but no one was injured.

The incident will be investigated by NBA security which will work in conjunction with the FBI on this matter which was one of several hoaxes called into airports across the country on Saturday.

News of the bomb threat was first known when Celtics forward Jae Crowder posted an Instagram photo showing players departing the plane with the caption, “BOMB THREAT ON US”.

Celtics officials declined to comment on the matter and instead referred all bomb threat-related questions to the league office.

Messages to the league office were not immediately returned.

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”