The Celtics have some work to do in order to be ready for the next time they play LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. And they’d better be ready, because that would come in the playoffs.
It’s too short-sighted to overreact to one game, but it’s clear that the Celtics put forth an unmistakably poor effort in their 121-99 loss to the Cavs on Sunday. The most glaring problems came on the defensive end of the floor, where LeBron and his new-look team shredded them to the tune of 53.3 percent shooting from three-point range and 53.6 percent from the field overall.
Head coach Brad Stevens said a lot about the Celtics’ defensive performance on Sunday, in a pointed few words.
“Yeah, we stunk,” Stevens told reporters after the game. “But [the Cavs] were really good. They had a lot to do with that.”
Before lambasting his team for their ugly defensive efforts, Stevens credited the Cavs for being aggressive and forcing turnovers late in the second quarter and into the third, which ultimately “changed the complexion of the game.” Before a Greg Monroe pass attempt sailed out of bounds in the second quarter, the Cavs were up 53-46. From there, they outscored the Celtics 68-53.
Stevens and the C’s clearly have some studying to do on defending the Cavs’ slew of younger, more athletic new faces that they added at the trade deadline. George Hill (who started), Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance combined to go 18-for-35 (51.4 percent) shooting for 49 points, including 8-for-14 (57.1 percent) from downtown.
The Cavs’ new additions opened up many of their open three-pointers by consistently killing the Celtics with pick-and-rolls, which NBA analyst Nate Duncan pointed out here:
2 of the Cavs new additions in the mix with a LeBron pick and roll -— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) February 11, 2018
Nance rolls/draws help, opens up a Clarkson catch and shoot 3 #TwitterNBAShow https://t.co/h3rb3BF1o3 pic.twitter.com/eutOzA7pNz
Ultimately, it’s just one game and the Celtics have plenty of time to correct the issues that cropped up over the past week. Kyrie Irving found a way to positively spin the disappointing effort for the C’s on Sunday, looking forward to their chances to turn things around as the All-Star break approaches.
“It’s great when you get a chance to go through these things as a young group, and then include them before the All-Star break,” said Irving. “It’s going to test a lot of us. And I’m looking forward to how we respond.”
After the way the past week went, especially considering that it came against their likely playoff opponents, a response will be needed. But there’s reason to be confident that Stevens will find a way for them not to “stink” next time around.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.