Boston Celtics

Celtics-Cavaliers review: What we saw

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Celtics-Cavaliers review: What we saw

CLEVELAND -- The Boston Celtics' game against Cleveland on Tuesday looked a lot like the first one they had on Sunday. Fortunately for the C's, the outcome was different as the Celtics held off a late Cavaliers rally and escaped with a 93-90 win.

Down the stretch, Boston came through with clutch shots, defensive stops and most important, the victory.

"It wasn't any panic in the huddles," said Jermaine O'Neal, who had 12 points. "Guys knew what we had to do. We had to want to get stops, and obviously, we had to score. Those are the two things that always win games."

While those were both factors in the game's outcome, there were others as well.

We outlined a few prior to the game.

Let's take a look and see how they played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Without question, the biggest concern the C's take away from Sunday's loss was their inability to score down the stretch. After a Brandon Bass jumper with 4:58 to play, Boston didn't make another basket. And its only point afterward was a Bass free throw with 4:25 to play. Look for coach Doc Rivers to bring back his core guys like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett about halfway through the fourth unless the game is in full-blown blow-out mode.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't light it up in the closing moments of the game, but they consistently got the right shooter, in the right spot, to take and make the right shot.

The C's focused on their bigs leading the way offensively in the fourth, evident by all 17 of the C's points being scored by Pierce (7), Garnett (6) and Brandon Bass. Easily the biggest shot of the night was made by Garnett, whose 13-footer with 1:04 to play put the C's ahead by four points.

"They've always been one of the best offensive executing teams in the league," said Cavs coach Byron Scott. "When you have the type of guys that they have, it's pretty easy to execute offensively."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs Kyrie Irving: If you are a defensive stopper, which is what Bradley is pegged to be for the Celtics, you have to up for this challenge, especially when you consider how Irving, a rookie, had his way with Bradley and the C's on Sunday. He finished with a game-high 23 points, including the game-winning basket. Bradley isn't going to make Irving shrink the way he did Orlando's Jameer Nelson. But he needs to be able to make life tougher - a lot tougher - on Irving, who has said that Bradley was a player he looked up to while in high school.
WHAT WE SAW: For three quarters, Bradley was at the very least, holding his own with Irving. But then came the fourth quarter, which brought with it a much more aggressive, more effective, Irving, who almost pulled off another end-of-the-game comeback for Cleveland. He finished with a game-high 21 points, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter.

"He just knows that that is winning time," said Scott. "His focus is even more heightened than when the game starts. He's just doing a great job in the fourth quarter."

PLAYER TO WATCH: You know Anderson Varejao is going to bring lots of energy and will make multiple effort plays on the boards. But Boston can not allow him to score 18 points, which was a season-high for him.

"You can trade Varejao today and put him on any team in the NBA, and there will be immediate results," said Rivers. "Without a play, without anything; just because of the way he plays. He's a special talent in the way that he attacks the game; tough to deal with."

WHAT WE SAW: You can add Rivers to the growing bandwagon for Varejao to be an All-Star this season. Varejao became the first player with a 2020 game against the C's, finishing with 20 points and 20 rebounds. "Varejao is always an All-Star as far as I'm concerned," Rivers said. "They should keep a spot for a role player, because that's what he does. He plays his role what he'd have? 20 points? I guarantee they didn't run one set for him."

STAT TO TRACK: The Celtics saw the video of how "night and day" their energy level was defensively against Cleveland on Sunday, and how it had been in their previous four games - all wins. While this can be difficult to quantify, points off turnovers certainly gives one a glimpse as to how the C's defensive pressure is or isn't, throwing off the timing and rhythm of an opponent. In the four wins, Boston forced those teams to turn the ball over 17.5 times which led to 19.8 points. In the Cavs loss on Sunday, Boston forced 14 turnovers that generated 17 points.

WHAT WE SAW: For three-plus quarters, Boston's defensive energy was where it needs to be in order for them to be successful. The C's forced 17 Cleveland turnovers which led to 21 points. Boston was especially effective in the second quarter when they forced four turnovers that generated nine points, a big reason why the Celtics took a 51-39 lead into the half. "I thought we played really well," said Rivers. "We had the one stretch, in the beginning of the fourth, where we really let Cleveland back in it."

No longer the little team that could, Celtics may need time to jell

No longer the little team that could, Celtics may need time to jell

Fireworks have been ablaze in the NBA all summer long, with the latest electrifying salvo being tossed by the Boston Celtics in trading for Kyrie Irving from Cleveland in exchange for a package of playerscentered around Isaiah Thomas and a first-round pick centered around Isaiah Thomas. Without question the Celtics were among the biggest winners this offseason as they went about transforming their roster significantly despite having the best record in the East while advancing to the conference finals. But good wasn’t good enough, a similar mantra by a number of teams in the NBA. We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin!

BOSTON – Expectations for the Celtics this season are the highest they've been in the Brad Stevens Era.
 
The past couple of years, Stevens’ crew was seen as a scrappy bunch.
 
That all changed Tuesday night when the Celtics pulled off a blockbuster trade in acquiring Kyrie Irving from Cleveland for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

MORE ON THE KYRIE IRVING BLOCKBUSTER:

 
Acquiring the four-time All-Star would have made this offseason one of the best ever for the Celtics. But prior to landing the 25-year-old point guard, Boston was able to sign Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $127.8 million contract after he spent his first seven seasons in the NBA with the Utah Jazz.
 
The new guys join a Celtics team that returns just four starters, a group led by Al Horford, who stands as the lone returning starter from last season’s squad which finished with the best record in the East (53-29) while advancing to the Eastern Conference finals before losing in five games to Cleveland.
 
Adding a pair of All-Stars to the mix will certainly benefit the Celtics for this upcoming season. But for their continued growth, they will also need to get more from their youngsters.
 
Second-year forward Jaylen Brown had a strong offseason and is poised to build off of a rookie season in which he was named to the All-Rookie second team. Boston will also look to get quality play from rookie Jayson Tatum who was selected by Boston with the third overall pick in the NBA draft.  
 
For Boston, the biggest concern has to be chemistry.
 
There’s no question there’s more talent on this roster from top to bottom.
 
But with this being the first go-around for most of the players, it remains to be seen just how long it will take for all of the core players to get on the same page and find success.
 
That challenge won’t be easy, especially with the Celtics opening with seven of their first 11 games on the road.

Even with all the new faces and a challenging schedule out the gates, that won’t diminish the heightened level of expectations for a team that will surely have a bull’s-eye on its back all season for a journey that should result in yet another deep playoff run.
 
Key free agent/trade additions: Kyrie Irving (from Cleveland); Gordon Hayward (from Utah); Aron Baynes (from Detroit); Marcus Morris (from Detroit).
 
Key losses:
Avery Bradley (traded to Detroit); Amir Johnson (Philadelphia); Jonas Jerebko (Utah).
 
Rookies of note:
Jayson Tatum; Semi Ojeleye.
 
Expectations:
60-22 (First in the Atlantic Division, first in the East)

CSNNE SCHEDULE

BST PODCAST: What grade would you give the Celtics trade for Kyrie Irving?

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BST PODCAST: What grade would you give the Celtics trade for Kyrie Irving?

0:41 - What grade would you give the Celtics for their trade for Kyrie Irving? Michael Holley, Kayce Smith, Tom Curran, break it down and give their grades.

4:32 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakley discuss how Kyrie Irving will fit in the Celtics system and how Brad Stevens will handle the roster with new egos.

8:50 - We take a look back at the Pierce and Garnett trade to the Nets that landed the Celtics multiple 1st round picks. Are you pleased with how the Celtics used those picks? Is Danny Ainge a Hall of Fame executive? Michael Holley, A. Sherrod Blakely, and Tom Giles discuss.

14:30 - Our BST crew talk about the Red Sox getting the win over the Indians, Eduardo Nunez being hit intentionally by Corey Kluber, and if Chris Sale will retaliate.