Celtics - Cavaliers review: C's defense sets the table

Celtics - Cavaliers review: C's defense sets the table
March 28, 2013, 9:00 am
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CLEVELAND — Fashionably late, the Boston Celtics defense showed up just in the nick of time to help them rally for a 93-92 win over Cleveland.

Folks will remember Jeff Green's game-winner as time expired. But if not for some pretty stingy defense down the stretch, the C's would have had no shot at winning a game in which they trailed by as many as 14 points in the fourth.

"It woke up," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of his team's defense. "I was like, I’m glad to see you. So it’s good. If you’re going to pick a spot to get stops, the last five minutes of the game is probably the perfect time to do it."

A jumper by Mareese Speights with 5:49 to play gave the Cavs an 88-78 lead. From there, the C's forced Cleveland to miss eight of its final nine shots of the game.

"It was something that we lacked the first 44 minutes of the game," Green said. "We allowed them back in the game because we weren't playing defense. We had to get back to what we are known for, and that's what got us back in the game."

Boston's defense certainly was a factor, but so was a Cavs team that seemed more concerned about running down the game clock instead of running plays.

"We stopped being aggressive," said Cleveland coach Byron Scott. "We were looking at the clock, playing not to lose the game instead of win the game. You have to be aggressive. You have to look to win. You can't hope the clock runs out and I thought that's what we kind of did."

Regardless, the C's managed to win a game that for long stretches seemed out of their reach, the kind of performance that might provide a much-needed jolt of confidence as they go forward.

Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game and who they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Doc Rivers has been practically begging his team to run more, and they have ... in spurts. A steady dose of attacking in transition should be at the top of the to-do list tonight against a Cleveland team that has been middle-of-the-pack in terms of limiting fast-break points. They give up 14.9 fast-break points per game this season which ranks 14th in the league in fewest fast-break points allowed.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics' transition game was similar to their play overall - very uneven. The Celtics only scored 13 fast-break points, but they did so by making all six of their fast-break field goal attempts.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Paul Pierce vs Alonzo Gee: Pierce had a solid night against the Knicks (16 points, six rebounds, six assists), but he has the potential to have a dominant game against Gee who has been a decent player for the Cavs but a player that Pierce should out-perform which would go far in Boston's quest to get back on a winning track.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce had his share of rough moments Wednesday night, but his overall play was strong. By the end of the night, Pierce was flirting with a triple-double. Instead he settled for his 10th double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds to go with eight assists. Gee had a decent game with 12 points and five rebounds.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Cleveland's Tristan Thompson had a season-high 21 points and nine rebounds against Boston when the two met on Jan. 22. That was one of several strong performances for the second-year forward who has had a team-leading 25 double-doubles this season.

WHAT WE SAW: This was a much, much different Tristan Thompson on the floor for Cleveland. He played more than 24 minutes, but for the most part was a non-factor. He grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, but scored just two points on 1-for-6 shooting.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston is coming off one of its more lopsided games in terms of second-chance points, with the New York Knicks tallying 29 second-chance points compared to Boston's six. It won't get any easier tonight against the Cavs who are No. 2 in the NBA in second-chance points with 15.3 per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Neither team was able to do much in terms of capitalizing on second and third-shot opportunities. The Celtics only had two, second-chance points on the night. Cleveland wasn't much better, scoring just six, second-chance points.