Celtics-Cavaliers review: What we saw

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Celtics-Cavaliers review: What we saw

CLEVELAND It wasn't pretty, but the Boston Celtics finally got off their losing snide with a hard-fought, 86-83 win over Cleveland. If you didn't watch the game and only had to go by Doc Rivers' body language afterward, you would have thought the C's got trounced by 20. "It's a win," a visibly unhappy Rivers said afterward. "That's all it is for us." In a game that began with such promise - Boston led by as many as 16 points in the first quarter - soon turned into a fight for survival.

There were many factors that contributed to the C's squeaking out a game that early on had the makings of a rare Celtics blowout.

We'll take a look back at some that we identified prior to the Celtics snapping their five-game losing streak with a much-needed win over Cleveland.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Don't be surprised if the Celtics try to get Ray Allen going early in the game. For one thing, it hasn't happened that often so it would probably catch the Cavaliers off-guard. Also, he has a favorable matchup (Daniel Gibson) who is smaller and thus provides the potential for Allen to showcase his all-around game which does include from time to time, scoring in the post.

WHAT WE SAW - Ray Allen didn't put on an all-around show, but he did manage to put his imprint on the game early. Allen hit a couple of big 3s in the first quarter, which paved the way for a 22-point game on 8-for-13 shooting from the field. In addition to the scoring, Allen also managed well defensively. Anthony Parker started at shooting guard, and missed all four of his shots. The Cavs went to Daniel Gibson off the bench, and he was just as bad with two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Rajon Rondo vs Kyrie Irving: This will be Rondo's first meeting against Irving this season. In the two previous matchups, Rondo did not play because of a wrist injury suffered against Toronto on Jan. 18. Irving is averaging 22 points in the two games against the Celtics, which includes the game-winner in an 88-87 win at the Garden on Jan. 29.
WHAT WE SAW - Rondo got the win, but you have to give this matchup to the rookie. Not only did he score a game-high 24 points, but he did by beating Rondo off the dribble at times, with and without the use of a pick-and-roll. Rondo had a typical Rondo night with a game-high 11 assists, but he missed all six of his shots from the field and turned the ball over five times. "We're all human. We're not going to play well every night," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, referring specifically to Rondo's game.
PLAYER TO WATCH - Brandon Bass makes his return after missing six games with a left knee injury. Of course his 11.6 points per game will help. But his presence should also provide a boost to other Celtics - namely Ray Allen and Paul Pierce - having better shots at the basket, and thus leading to a Celtics team that puts up a lot more points. "Brandon is now a part of a lot of what we do," Allen told CSNNE.com. "We count on him I think he's a great scorer. But he's under-rated in some of the other things that he can do."

WHAT WE SAW - After making his first five shots, Bass went on to miss six of his next seven. Still, for a guy who hadn't played since Feb. 10, Bass' game didn't seem to miss a beat as he finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists.

STAT TO TRACK - Controlling or at the very least, competing on the boards will be huge for the Celtics. In their loss to Cleveland on Jan. 29, the C's were minus-4 on the boards and minus-6 on the offensive glass. The struggles that night on the offensive boards mirrored a major problem for Boston all season. Boston is minus-103 this season on the offensive boards, easily the worst offensive rebounding team in the NBA. In fact, no other NBA team has allowed even 80 more offensive rebounds than they were able to grab. And in Cleveland, you're talking about the second-best offensive rebounding team in the NBA, with 13.2 per game.

WHAT WE SAW - The Celtics continue to be a bad offensive rebounding team, and Tuesday's effort won't do anything to change that perception. Cleveland had 11 offensive rebounds compared to just five for Boston. But here's the crazy part. Boston still managed to outscore the Cavs in second-chance points, 15-10. And arguably the biggest play of the game was Kevin Garnett grabbing his own miss in the game's final seconds, and being fouled on the play. He went to the free throw line and made both free throws that ultimately turned out to be the game-winning points.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."