Celtics-Cavaliers review: C's go cold in second half

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Celtics-Cavaliers review: C's go cold in second half

CLEVELAND Scoring droughts are nothing new for the Boston Celtics.

Even in their run towards Banner 18 in 2008, the C's had their share of offensive lulls.

But things are different now, and definitely not for the better.

"Offensively we have those flat periods," Rivers said. "And when we are good when we have those flat periods, we get stops. And right now, we're not when we have droughts."

That was one of the contributing factors to Boston's 95-90 loss to Cleveland, the C's fourth in a row.

Boston was especially atrocious in the third quarter, shooting just 33.3 percent from the field.

Fortunately for them, the Cavs were even worse in converting just 27.3 percent of their shots which allowed the Celtics to take a 73-70 lead into the fourth quarter after a 3-pointer by Courtney Lee with less than a second to play.

As bad as Boston was in the third quarter shooting the ball, they were even worse in the fourth as they connected on just 21.7 percent of their shots.

Cleveland's Kyrie Irving had almost as many points in the fourth quarter (15) as the entire C's squad (17).

"It's definitely frustrating when you get back in the game, and you defend the way you defend, you got one guy who really got it going ... it's right there in our hands," said Paul Pierce. "We had some good looks, missed a few lay-ups."

And with that, another missed opportunity for a win. Despite hitting the official halfway point with a below-.500 record (20-21), the Celtics still hold out hope that there's enough time to turn around the fortunes of their quickly-fading season.

They will get another shot at starting a new winning streak when they host the New York Knicks on Thursday night at the TD Garden.

Here are some of the factors outlined prior to Tuesday's game, and how those factors played out as the C's suffer a fourth straight loss for the second time this season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics have not been attacking the lane as much as they should, but that should change tonight. The Cavaliers' interior defense is indeed one of their weaknesses. In fact, Cleveland ranks dead-last in blocked shots (3.5) per game.

WHAT WE SAW: That electric fence that the C's seem to feel surrounds the paint, was apparently up and active again. Boston had just 28 points in the paint compared to Cleveland which had 46.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Kyrie Irving: Rondo may be an all-star starter, but Irving is progressing towards being one of the NBA's better playmakers. And like most young guards in the league, facing Rondo tends to bring out the best in him.

WHAT WE SAW: Irving came out as the aggressor and completely overwhelmed Rondo in the first quarter. Rondo made this matchup closer in the second and third quarters, but Irving's ability to take over in the fourth was the difference in the game - and to a large degree, this head-to-head matchup.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett has been solid of late, but the C's really need him to have one of those dominate performances that he's good for every now and then. Without Anderson Varejao (blood clot, out for the season) in the mix, the chances of Garnett delivering a huge game become much, much greater for the Celtics.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett continues to have good but not great nights for the Celtics, tallying 16 points along with five rebounds, three assists and a season-high five blocked shots.

STAT TO TRACK: Ball movement has been an issue for the Cavaliers most of this season, a trend the C's would like to see continue tonight. Cleveland averages just 19.4 assists per game which ranks 29th in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Celtics' defense has limited opponents to 21.4 assists per game this season which ranks 12th in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston's porous interior defense made for a passing frenzy for the Cavaliers as they exceeded their season average in assists with 21 after just three quarters of play. For the game, Cleveland had 24 assists.

Bradley locked in during return to Celtics lineup vs. Hornets

Bradley locked in during return to Celtics lineup vs. Hornets

BOSTON – When you look at Avery Bradley’s growth this season, seeing the tremendous strides he has made offensively is clear.

But at the heart of Bradley’s game remains a desire to dominate a matchup as a defender, something that was alive and well on Monday as he made his return to the floor after missing the four previous games with an Achilles strain.

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Bradley’s defense would prove instrumental in Boston’s 108-98 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.

He was 2-for-9 from the field and played nearly 33 minutes against Hornets which is just a couple minutes under his season average of court time.

Usually he’s responsible for providing a boost at both ends of the floor.

But considering his long lay-off, it was clear early on that he was locked in defensively more so than looking to get back on track shooting the ball.

“You take any type of games off in this league, your rhythm and all that you gotta get it back,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder.

Even though his shots weren’t falling, Bradley was on top of his game defensively while guarding 6-foot-8 Nicolas Batum who is six inches taller but never was a factor on Monday.

Batum finished with eight points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens liked what he got out of Bradley in his return to action.

“I thought he (Bradley) was great,” Stevens told CSNNE.com. “He did everything we needed him to do. We knew there would be a little bit of rust (shooting the ball), but that’s part of you playing your way back into it.”

As far as Bradley’s stifling defense on Batum, Stevens said, “You have to do that against Batum. I thought Avery did a really good job of that. It’s a hard matchup no matter what way you go. Batum, giving up inches to him. He (Bradley) was there on the catch all night.”

And as Bradley gradually gets back into a flow, he’ll regain the form offensively that made him one of the NBA’s better two-way players this season.