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.

Isaiah Thomas continues to claim Celtics' franchise records

Isaiah Thomas continues to claim Celtics' franchise records

BOSTON – This continues to be a historic season for Isaiah Thomas as more records fell in Wednesday’s 103-100 loss to Milwaukee, and the company he’s keeping becomes even more exclusive. 

Thomas had a game-high 32 points on Wednesday which included five made 3’s on nine attempts. That gave him 223 for the season which is a new franchise single-season record for made 3-pointers. The previous record was 222 set by Antoine Walker during the 2001-2002 season.

And his 32 points scored gives him 2,012 this season. 

Only six players in franchise history (Paul Pierce was the last to do it during the 2005-2006 season) have scored 2,000 or more points in a single season. 

Oh, there’s more. 

With Wednesday being the 66th time this season he has had 20 or more points, Thomas has now tied Pierce (2005-2006) and Larry Bird (1985-1986; 1987-1988) for sixth on the Celtics’ single-season franchise list. 

“I didn’t even know that,” a visibly disappointed Thomas said following Wednesday’s loss. “It doesn’t feel that good right now. But when I look back on it, probably in the offseason, I’ll appreciate it a little more. But I’m just staying in the moment and try and play as best I can to lead this team to as many wins as possible.”

Other season milestones Thomas is in the mix for include the following:

  • The 5-foot-9 guard is one of three players this season to have 50 or more games of 25-plus points, joined by Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (57) and Houston’s James Harden (54).
  • Thomas has made at least one 3-pointer in a franchise-record 50 straight games (Dec. 3 – March 29). That’s also the longest current streak in the NBA. 
  • With 66 games of 20 or more points this season, Thomas is second in the NBA to Westbrook (67).

Marcus Smart at center of yet another controversial call

Marcus Smart at center of yet another controversial call

BOSTON – One of the more bizarre plays in Boston’s 103-100 loss to Milwaukee came in the second quarter, requiring some explanation from the officials afterwards. 

With 3:55 to play in the second quarter, the officials had originally called a foul on Marcus Smart which he verbally protested that eventually led to him being whistled for a technical foul. 

After the officials reviewed the play, they changed the call to a personal foul against Khris Middleton but no change to the called technical foul against Smart who objected to a call that, upon review, they agreed was the wrong call to make. 

Official Sean Corbin, through pool reporter Ken Powtak of the Associated Press, acknowledged that the original call was a loose ball foul against Smart. 

“The (officiating) crew got together, we met prior to video and we decided that we needed to look at video because both players were on the floor bleeding so we went to the video for a hostile act,” Corbin told Powtak. “In the review we noticed that Khris Middleton initially made contact to Marcus Smart’s face. That’s how the original contact to the play occurred.”

Fortunately for the Celtics, Middleton missed his technical free throw while Smart split a pair of free throws which cut Milwaukee’s lead to 49-40.

Still, that’s no consolation for Smart who was whistled for a technical foul on a play that the official acknowledged was the wrong call to make. 

In the fourth quarter, Smart was at the center of yet another controversial call that was also reviewed by the officials. The verdict wasn't nearly as good for Smart who was whistled for a flagrant foul after getting his feet tangled up with Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo who was called for a non-shooting foul in the play with 4:46 to play. 

Antetokounmpo made one of two free throws and on the Bucks' ensuing possession, he was called for traveling.

Smart was unavailable to talk after the game in part because the aforementioned incident left an abrasion to his mouth and, because of the technical foul, a little lighter in the wallet as well.