Celtics 'crushed' by more physical Hawks

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Celtics 'crushed' by more physical Hawks

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

ATLANTA Too many times to count Friday night, the Boston Celtics would follow the defensive game plan to near perfection.

They forced the Atlanta Hawks to take shots that they didn't necessarily want to take. And most of those shots were contested.

Funny thing happened after most of those shot clanged off the rim, though -- they wound up back in the hands of Hawks players who more often than not, converted those second-chance opportunities into points.

And when the final horn sounded, the Boston Celtics found themselves on the short end of an 88-83 loss.

The skidding Celtics, losers of four of their last six games, are known as a physical basketball team.

But the Hawks became the latest opponent to play the role of aggressor against Boston.

"We got crushed," said coach Doc Rivers, who repeated the "crushed" reference two more times in case anyone missed it. "We got absolutely crushed on the glass tonight. Our guys played with effort. I think they want to play. Atlanta was just better."

The Celtics were minus-14 on the boards against Atlanta, and minus-11 when you just looked at offensive rebounds.

Although Boston held the Hawks to just 36.7 percent shooting, all those multiple shot opportunities they got essentially negated what had been a number of otherwise solid defensive efforts.

"We have to be a better rebounding team," said Paul Pierce. "Especially if you play great defense for 19, 20, 22 seconds and the ball goes up, you gotta be able to get those rebounds. That really bit us in the butt tonight."

And it's a trend that'll keep giving them fits until they fix it.

The idea that the return of Shaquille O'Neal, which may happen as early as Sunday, can certainly help along those lines.

But Rivers isn't banking on O'Neal coming back being what rights all the wrongs of the C's.

"Let's not make . . . we have no saviors," Rivers said. "We have to save ourselves. Clearly another big body would help. Jermaine O'Neal playing three or four more games will help. But at the end of the day, all of us have to get on the glass and I didn't think we did that tonight."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – There are 240 minutes of play in an NBA game, but Boston’s 112-99 Game 4 loss to Cleveland came down to seven (six minutes and 46 seconds to be precise).

That would be the amount of time left in the second quarter that LeBron James spent on the bench with four personal fouls (a first for him in the first half of an NBA playoff game ever) and Boston ahead by 10 points.

Boston could not have asked for a better scenario than that, especially considering how well they had played up to that point in the game and again, knowing that James wasn’t about to set foot back on the court until the third quarter.

But here’s the problem.

Boston’s 10-point lead when James left with four fouls.

Halftime rolled around and Boston’s lead was still at just 10 points.

Celtics players agreed that not finding a way to increase their lead with James out was among the more pivotal stretches of play in Game 4.

“They did a really good job of not letting it (the 10-point lead) get out of control while he was on the bench,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “Every time we scored, they came back and scored.  They answered back with everything we answered.”

While many will point to that stretch as a time when the Celtics failed to make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of winning, it wasn’t as if the Cavs are a one-man team.

“They still have two All-Stars out on the court,” said Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. “With the best player in the world they go to unreal, but they’re still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there.”

Irving had a playoff career-high 42 points which included him scoring 12 of Cleveland’s 14 points in the final 6:46 of the second with James on the bench.

“He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and you know, you can tell he puts in a lot of work in his game, a lot of respect from myself, my teammates,” said Avery Bradley. “We have to do a better job at defending him as a unit, trying to make everything hard on him. He definitely got a great rhythm going tonight, and I felt like we had a chance to make it harder on him.”

James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.

As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series.

“What are you going to do?” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love. “You have to continue to fight through it. At halftime, we were down 10. We made some adjustments on the defensive end and we just fought; we needed to. They got everything out of us tonight in that second half, but we played more inspired basketball as well.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics don't take advantage of LeBron's foul trouble

CLEVELAND – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Tuesday night’s Game 4 matchup between Boston and Cleveland which ended with the Cavs rallying for a 112-99 win. Boston now trails Cleveland 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving

He was simply the best player on the floor by a mile in Game 4 as he tallied a career playoff-high 42 points with 21 coming in the pivotal third quarter.

LeBron James

Despite picking up four personal fouls in the first half – a first for him in a playoff game ever – James bounced back with a dominant performance. He finished with 34 points, 15 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter. He also had six assists and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Jae Crowder

He continues to be one of the more consistent Celtics in this series. In Game 4, he had 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting with eight rebounds and four assists.

Kevin Love

Most of Game 4, Kevin Love found ways to make life difficult for the Celtics. He ended up with a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds with five assists and two blocked shots.

Avery Bradley

Boston’s Game 3 hero couldn’t deliver like that in Game 4, but Bradley still managed to score a team-high 19 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

 

DUDS

Boston’s sense of urgency

They had the Cavs in prime position to be beaten. But they didn’t play with the kind of effort and focus in the second half, that we saw through most of the first. And that 6:46 stretch in the second quarter when LeBron James was on the bench, and they didn’t increase their lead? That was a major, major factor in the game’s outcome.