A weak start and a weak finish spelled trouble for the Celtics on Wednesday night, as the team dropped their second straight with a 117-110 loss to the Cavaliers at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
Held to just 18 points in the opening quarter (their third-lowest opening-quarter total of the season), the Celtics converted on just eight of their first 22 shots of the night, and needed nearly eight minutes before hitting the double-digit mark.
The second quarter brought about more of the same for the C’s, too, as the team went without a make for over five minutes, and ended with a 17-point deficit. To put the Celtics’ first-half woes into proper context, consider the fact that they finished the half with almost as many turnovers (12) as they did field goals (15). Second night of a back-to-back or not, it was hard to imagine the C’s playing a worse half of basketball than they did in the opening 24 minutes of this one.
“If you have a stretch like that against an NBA team, you’re usually going to have a bad night,” Brad Stevens, who thought the C’s started strong but faded when shots weren’t dropping, said after the loss. “There were times in that first half where we were certainly shoulders slumped and not where we needed to be to withstand that kind of run.
“You could hear and feel our effort at times. But it took us a while to get it back.”
But the third quarter brought the best out of the Celtics, with a 36-point quarter push led by Boston one-two of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who accounted for 22 points in the frame behind a 9-for-15 effort.
The Celtics were unable to carry that momentum into the fourth quarter, however, as the Celtics failed to capitalize on their offensive looks before resorting to low-percentage three-point heaves in a 2-for-12 from deep final frame.
The Celtics at one point made it a three-point game, but the late-game execution was downright dreadful as Cleveland responded with a 14-5 run, which was especially troubling given the Cavs’ fourth-quarter struggles in 2021.
Boston’s gimme misses also proved to be brutal, as the Celtics missed nine of their 29 free throw attempts.
The Celtics were led by 29 points from Tatum (and Brown was right behind him with 28 points), and Robert Williams III provided a big boost off the bench, with 13 points and 14 rebounds in 26:35 of play.
On the other side, the Cavaliers were powered by their backcourt duo of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, who combined for 54 of Cleveland’s 117 points, and shot 19-for-36 (52.8 percent) from the field.
The loss dropped the Celtics to 20-20 on the year, and also ended what was a nine-game winning streak over the Cavs.
With this game being the second leg of a back-to-back, C’s guard Kemba Walker sat this contest out, while Romeo Langford and Tristan Thompson remained out of action due to health and safety protocols.
The Celtics will return home for a Friday night head-to-head with the Sacramento Kings.