Celtics rookie Moore impresses in debut

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Celtics rookie Moore impresses in debut

TORONTO You don't want to get too carried away with a 76-75 preseason win, especially when it comes over the Toronto Raptors who will be among the NBA's worst teams this year.

But there's no way Celtics Nation can ignore the play of E'Twaun Moore, the C's second-round pick in last June's NBA draft who continues to impress.

The 6-foot-3 combo guard only had four points on Sunday, but they could not have come at a better time.

And when you hear his teammates talk about him - his Hall of Fame-bound teammates - you don't get the sense that they're talking about a rookie.

Boston's Kevin Garnett has seen his share of talented young players come through. But the poise that Moore has shown thus far, Garnett acknowledges, is unusual.

"A lot of young people, play to the side, play to the back, kind of sit there and watch a lot," Garnett said. "He's no different from that, but at the end of the day, he has an opinion. And it's a valuable one. He's not just talking to hear himself."

Moore is vocal on the floor, directing the C's various sets when called upon. But more than his voice, his game has said plenty about how valuable his four years at Purdue and brief stint in Italy has been to preparing him for the NBA.

"Basketball is basketball, no matter where it's played," Moore said. "That's how I feel when I'm out there on the court. When I go out there, I stay confident and go out there and play hard."

What really jumps out about Moore's play has been his pace.

"The interesting thing about that, the speed, when you get young guys in they want to go so fast and they're rushing," said C's guard Ray Allen. "You can see he has a speed that's kind of in-between. He knows when to turn it on and he knows when to kind of lull his defender into a false sense of reality. That helps out here. That's one thing you have to learn when you're a young player in this league. And if you have that already, the game slows down for you."

And that could increase the chances of him cracking the Celtics rotation as the team's fourth guard behind Rajon Rondo, Allen and Keyon Dooling.

Right now, his stiffest competition appears to be coming from Avery Bradley, who was the first guard off the C's bench on Sunday.

As badly as Moore wants to play, he's approaching the prospect of seeing more action the same way he approaches the game - at a pace that is his; one that's widely respected by his teammates.

"E.T., he has a nice pace, a nice poise about him," Garnett said. "I thought the two shots he hit (in the fourth quarter) gave us a chance and put us in position to get some stops. Without those two baskets, we're not even in that position."

Moore added he was confident that both of his shots in the final 1:51 were going in.

And while shooting has been one of his strengths thus far, Moore's playmaking skills have been solid as well.

"I definitely was confident," he said. "Confident I can go out there and make the best play possible."

Celtics move into No. 1 spot in East as Cavs get crushed by Spurs

Celtics move into No. 1 spot in East as Cavs get crushed by Spurs

SAN ANTONIO -- The Cavaliers acknowledged having heavy legs, yet there is something far weightier on the minds of the defending NBA champions.

Cleveland is in the midst of one of its worst stretches this season and there is little time to fix it.

Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the ailing Cavs 103-74 on Monday night in a much-anticipated showdown that turned into a major letdown for Cleveland.

"The way we've been struggling, (the Spurs are) the last team that you want to play," said LeBron James, who was fine after taking an elbow to the neck. "A well-oiled machine like this, they exploit everything that you're not doing well at that point in time of the season and right now we're not playing good basketball."

James, who finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 29 minutes, said he will play Thursday at Chicago.

Cleveland (47-26) dropped its second in a row, set a season low for points and fell a half-game behind Boston (48-26) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Cavaliers have nine games remaining, all against teams in the East, including a visit to Boston on April 5.

James said the standings "always matter," but playing more consistently is far more important and he refused to blame injuries or an arduous schedule for the team's troubles.

"It matters more that we're playing better basketball than where we're at," he said. "If that results in us having the No. 1 seed, the No. 2 seed, 3 or whatever the hell it is, we need to play better basketball. That's what it comes down to."

What Cleveland is seeking, the Spurs have already found.

San Antonio (57-16) is two games behind Golden State (59-14) for the league's best record entering a home game against the Warriors on Wednesday.

The Spurs have won five straight and 8 of 10 after sweeping the season series with the Cavaliers.

"It was a big game, but in the end, it's just one game, and one win," San Antonio guard Tony Parker said. "We're trying to be consistent. We're trying to play the same way every game. It was definitely surprising. Coming off a loss, I thought they would play with a lot more energy, but it can happen. It's a long season. It's just one game and I'm sure they're going to bounce back and use this game as motivation."

LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol added 14 points apiece for the Spurs.

San Antonio led by as many as 33 to the delight of the sold-out crowd, and the Spurs' bench outscored the Cavaliers' reserves 49-24.

"We did a good job coming out early and then keeping our foot on the pedal," Leonard said.

Cleveland, which was already without injured Iman Shumpert, received more bad news Monday morning when it was announced that Kyle Korver will miss at least two more games with a sore left foot.

"You lose Korver and Shumpert off your bench and things tend to change," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. "With those two guys out, we tried some different things and it didn't work. It was not on the bench. It was on me."

Cleveland opted to play its stars rather than rest them, but the trio of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sat out the fourth quarter of the Cav's second lopsided loss in the past two weeks.

Lue said he has considered resting his stars over the team's final nine games, which James is not in favor of.

"Coach is going to have his logic of things, but we need to play," he said.

James exited with 25 seconds remaining in the third after taking an elbow to his neck from David Lee on a rebound. James continually rubbed the area before collapsing after he crossed midcourt. He remained on the floor for about a minute before walking unassisted to the bench.

James left for the locker room early in the fourth quarter during a timeout, but said afterward he is fine.

EXTRA SHOOTING

Irving returned to the court for about 15 minutes following the loss to work on his jump shot. The star guard had eight points and two assists in 26 minutes. He finished 4 for 13 from the field and missed his two 3-point attempts.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Cleveland completed its schedule against the West, finishing 16-14. In addition to losing to the Spurs by 29 points, the Cavaliers lost by 35 to Golden State and 30 to the Los Angeles Clippers . . . James needs 24 points to pass Shaquille O'Neal for seventh overall in career scoring. O'Neal has 28,596 career points . . . The Cavaliers averaged 116.3 points in their previous four games.

Spurs: San Antonio is holding opponents under 100 points per game for the 22nd straight season . . . Danny Green tied his season high with four blocked shots . . . Leonard has scored in double figures in 100 straight games.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers: At the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.

Spurs: Host the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.

Bertrand: Raptors a 'scary team' in the Eastern Conference

Bertrand: Raptors a 'scary team' in the Eastern Conference

Mike Felger and Marc Bertrand talk about the Celtics clinching the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference and other potential threats for the C's.