Turnovers, poor defense doom Celtics

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Turnovers, poor defense doom Celtics

BOSTON -- It wasnt the Celtics first loss to the season. In fact, it was their tenth. But after Sundays last-minute defeat by the Cleveland Cavaliers, it seemed like one of the worst.

I could put all sorts of sprinkles on top of this cupcake, Kevin Garnett said following the Cavs 88-87 win. I dont know a guy thats in here that wasnt very, very distraught and upset today.

The Celtics entered the game on a four-game winning streak. They held a 70-62 lead after three quarters and built their edge up to 11 points with four minutes and 25 seconds to go.

Then, it fell apart.

The Cs did not score the rest of the game as the Cavaliers closed out the fourth on a 12-0 run. Rookie Kyrie Irving scored six points and Anderson Varejao added four during the stretch while the Celtics committed three turnovers.

After Irving connected on a driving layup to give the Cavs a one-point lead with 2.6 seconds left, Paul Pierce failed to get a shot off at the buzzer.

The defense just didnt step up, said Pierce, who expressed frustration in the fact that he played less than four minutes in the final quarter. We allowed more points in the fourth quarter than we did all game, and the turnovers really came to bite us. I turned the ball over too much today. Turnovers really came back to bite us today. We shot 50 percent, they shoot 43, but thats the difference in the game. We turned the ball over too many times.

Had the Celtics played consistently throughout the fourth quarter, the game would not have come down to a final shot. But their scoring freeze gave a Cavaliers team led by a offensively-savvy rookie the momentum they needed to take this game back.

It seemed like we didnt get to our spots and we didnt execute where we needed to execute down the stretch, said Ray Allen. I thought we did a good job of it all game but I think we scored 17 in the fourth. I dont believe we gave ourselves a chance to score. We had opportunities but we didnt make the best of them. We had those looks. With the lead that we, if we got stops it wouldnt have mattered if we had scored on offense.

The Celtics will face the Cavaliers on Tuesday in Cleveland. There is no redemption -- Sundays loss is on their record no matter what happens the next game -- but the Cs will enter that contest knowing they have to play a full 48 minutes. They saw what happened when they dont.

I also thought we let our guard down, said Doc Rivers. I told our guys, Think about down the stretch, the last five minutes, how many cute plays we made. No-look passes, behind-the-back passes, and they got deflected and we didnt score on them. You lose games this way. This was a bad loss for us. Not that it was Cleveland, it was that we had the game under control and we didnt take care of it.

Blakely: Celtics make a healthy choice in standing pat at the deadline

Blakely: Celtics make a healthy choice in standing pat at the deadline

BOSTON -- For the second year in a row, the NBA trade deadline has come and gone with the Boston Celtics making no moves.
 
The Celtics were focused on trying to land either Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George, but Boston’s efforts never gained momentum in the final hours leading up to Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.

And while there were a handful of potential deals that would have made Boston slightly better, that improvement -- and the cost attached to it -- was just more than Ainge and the Celtics were willing to pay. 
 
And so they hit the final stretch of the season with a roster that – for now at least – looks identical to what they had at the start of the season with one difference --health. 
 
Most of this season, the Celtics have had multiple players out with injuries or various ailments. Currently, Avery Bradley (right Achilles) is the lone Celtic dealing with a significant injury. 
 
And after Bradley practiced some on Thursday, there’s a chance that he might be on the floor Friday night at Toronto. 
 
But there is no question that a significant segment of Celtics Nation is disappointed that Boston didn’t engineer a trade of some sort.
 
“We’re trying to upgrade our team,” said Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “But it is a delicate balance between short-term goals and long-term goals. Obviously, both are very important. We’re excited where we are on a long-term basis. And this year we didn’t make any trades. Last year we didn’t make any trades.”
 
But in standing pat a year ago, the Celtics solidified their salary cap space to where they could have offered a pair of max contracts to Al Horford – which they did – as well as Kevin Durant who met with Boston but ultimately decided to sign with Golden State. 
 
And by not including their first-round pick last season, the Celtics have Jaylen Brown who is one of the better rookies in this year’s class. 
 
“So we’re happy with the direction that we’re moving,” Ainge said. 
 
But standing pat was not on the agenda for the teams surrounding Boston in the East.
 
Boston’s inability to strike a deal is in sharp contrast to what teams surrounding them did during this trade season. 
 
The Cleveland Cavaliers are the team Boston and the rest of the East are chasing. They acquired Kyle Korver earlier this month, a player who ranks among the NBA’s all-time great 3-point shooters. 
 
Washington added Bojan Bogdanovic from Brooklyn today, providing some much-needed firepower for a Wizards second unit that ranks among the NBA’s lowest scoring groups. 
 
Toronto recently traded for Orlando’s Serge Ibaka, giving the Raptors a defensive-oriented big man who can stretch the floor. 
 
Also today, the Atlanta Hawks picked up Ersan Illyasova from Philadelphia, which should help them space the floor better.
 
Each of those teams addressed a very specific need, something the Celtics were hoping to do. 
 
But more than a player, the Celtics could benefit from a roster with improved health. 
 
The team’s preferred starting five -- Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson -- has a 15-6 record this season. To put that in perspective, that’s a winning percentage of .714 which would be tops in the East and third overall in the NBA for this season. 
 
And with most of the players seemingly back to full strength health-wise now, it’s understandable to some extent why Ainge would be willing to stick with this group for the rest of the season. 
 
“As you’ve been watching lately, we’ve been winning a lot of games with everybody,” Ainge said. “Players ten through fifteen contributing to our wins. We like the depth of the team, we like the youth of the team, we like the energy and enthusiasm of the team and I’m very anxious and excited to watch in the second half.”
 
But just like when they stood pat last year, the decision puts the onus on the players and the coaching staff to step their game up. 

“I roll with the guys in this locker room until something changes,” Isaiah Thomas said prior to the trade deadline. “I always mean that.”
 
Said Jae Crowder: “We have to take care of what we can control and that’s night-in and night-out, try to get wins.”

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis hit three-run homers and left-hander Brian Johnson started and pitched two scoreless innings to help the Red Sox win their spring training opener, 9-6, over Northeastern University on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Johnson, who made one spot start in his MLB debut with the Red Sox in 2015 but then was derailed by injuries and anxiety issues last season, struck out three and walked one Thursday. He's expected to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 5-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts in 2016.

Moreland, the left-handed hitting first baseman signed to a one-year deal after spending his first seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, and Travis, a right-handed hitting first base prospect coming back from knee surgery last season, each hit three-run homers in a six-run third inning.

Pablo Sandoval, attempting to reclaim the third-base job after missing nearly all of last season after surgery on his left shoulder, went 1-for-2 with a double. 

The Red Sox open Grapefruit League play Friday afternoon when they host the New York Mets at JetBlue Park.