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."