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I Hate When The Celtics Forget Games Are 48 Minutes

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I know the general consensus was that we would all be happy if the Celtics made this a competitive ECF, even if they lost. Just don’t get blown out we all said, myself included. Well, someone tell my why after two competitive games on the road, I’m still here feeling a little depressed? Depressed that this Celtics team had a chance to take both games IN Cleveland and return home for Game 5 back in the drivers seat? Instead, they are on life support and have to stomach blowing what was a golden opportunity to truly change the dynamic of this series. That fucking sucks. Instead, the Celtics did that thing again where they forgot a basketball game is 48 minutes. Hate when they do that.

It’s interesting, the Celtics have played 16 quarters in this series, and they’ve probably had three good ones total. To think they were that close to tying this shit up despite that, is annoying. I don’t know how else to say it, I can’t think it’s anything other than a blown opportunity when you’re GIFTED four early Lebron fouls, something that I don’t think any of us have ever seen, and you don’t extend the lead.

As a result, they now find them in a situation in which Lebron James is 11-0 all time. Now we know that a 3-1 lead is clearly the worst thing to have in playoff basketball, but before we look ahead to tomorrow, we must talk about last night.

God dammit.

The Good

– I can’t lie, those first 24 minutes were intoxicating. Seeing the effort and execution the Celtics came out with to start this game was incredible. Inserting Kelly Olynyk into the starting lineup was a bit of a head scratcher, but would you know it, it worked! That’s why today we’re starting with Brad Stevens.

Here’s a guy that’s had to basically change the entire way his team plays, on the road, against the defending champs, and is walking away with a split. He got this team to forget all about the two beatdowns in BOS and turn in two competitive efforts. It seems like every button he pushed has worked, his ATOs have been incredible, and more than anything else, he has his team believing they can compete with CLE, even if that is a bit of a stretch. This is all why I find it so comical that there were hot takes everywhere you looked saying how Brad should be fired earlier in the playoffs. Remember, this is a guy who wasn’t even a finalist for the COY. We all can agree that is absolutely ridiculous now right?

– You saw the Celtics get off to such a great start for a couple reasons. First, their offensive approach outside of their first three possessions was exactly how you have to start on the road. They were aggressive, they attacked the basket, and they didn’t really force things. I would describe the first half as peak Celtics basketball. Good shots, good ball movement (17 assists on 21 baskets), good defense, and limited TOs (3). Their effort was there on the glass as those numbers were relatively close, and the Celts simply looked more engaged.

It’s no secret that when the Celtics play with high energy and actually give a shit, they can be pretty good. The bad news is, again, they only did it for 24 minutes.

– This was maybe the first game against CLE all year in which the Celtics actually did a solid job containing Tristan Thompson. What took them so long is anybody’s guess, but I was pleased to see them make a conscious effort to you know, actually put a body on him. You could argue that Thompson is a main reason why the Celtics have such a tough time with this team, but he was essentially a non factor. Just 7/7 with 1 OREB in 37 minutes, credit guys like Kelly and Jae for hitting the glass and limiting the Cavs to just 8 second chance points.

– What do you know, Jaylen Brown played exactly 20 minutes, and turned in 9 points on 3-5 shooting. It’s pretty clear by now right? When Jaylen played 20+ minutes, he tends to play well. When he gets inconsistent minutes, he struggles. This series says it all

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If we can take anything away from this playoffs, for me personally it’s how ready Jaylen has been when his number is called. After getting DNPs or limited minutes all year, in the biggest series all year, he’s turned in 9.5/3.8 while shooting 58% from the field. Perhaps the most surprising is the TOs, and the fact that he really hasn’t turned the ball over. Like Smart, Jaylen is clearly showing he is NOT afraid of the moment, and as a guy we are all banking on becoming a major franchise cornerstone, that’s a great sign.

– How often are there games in which the Celtics get over 50% shooting and at least 15 points from 60% of their starting lineup, and they lose? Jae, Kelly, and Al all shot the ball well, were nearly 50% from deep as a group, and the Celtics still lost by double digits. Shitty ending, but you can’t say guys didn’t show up. I think that will help carry over into Thursday night if anything else.

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The Bad

– OK, where do we start. I guess the obvious place, and that is with the defense. After the first quarter ended, so did the Celtics smothering defense. Here are the splits for CLE in the following quarters:

64.7/57.1%

76.2/50%

64.7/50%

That is absolutely incredible. For those who didn’t do the math, that’s 68.5/52.3% for 75% of the game. I don’t know how any team beats that. Let’s put that second half into perspective. The Celtics MADE 14 FGs, the Cavs MISSED 11. The Celtics attempted 34 shots. The Cavs MADE 27. All you can do is tip your cap, this was some of the best shooting these eyes have ever seen.

– Obviously, Kyrie Irving changed this game. As soon as Lebron went out, instead of extending the lead, Kyrie went bananas with 12 huge points in just 7 minutes in that 2nd quarter. He then followed that up with a 9-10 performance in the third, and that was it. Here’s why this annoys me. The Celtics perimiter defense is supposed to be a strength of this team. Guys like Marcus and Avery have shown the ability to at least bother Kyrie, and last night it was nowhere to be found. It seemed like Avery was taking bad angles, which allowed Kyrie to get a sliver of a step, and once that happens, he’s too big and strong to challenge. How many times did we see Kyrie get to the FT line first, give a little nudge, and finish at the rim? Try a billion.

All this talk about the Celtics defense being so much better, well, over the last two games, Kyrie is 8-11 from deep and 25-37 from the field. The Celtics have not held CLE to under 108 all series. Again, LOOK AT THOSE SHOOTING PERCENTAGES. If I’m to believe the Celtics are so much better defensively without Isaiah, then what is the explanation for this? Where was that defense after the first 12 minutes?

– To rub salt on the wound, Kyrie Irving is shooting 34% from three this playoffs. Of course, this went in

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– Here’s the thing, everyone with a brain knew Lebron was not going to be called for a foul in the second half. No chance. Is that fair? Not really. Was it a PRAYER that he even had four in the first place? Absolutely. In 22:44 second half minutes, guess what, zero fouls. There were two clear fouls in that fourth quarter that definitely sting to not get called, the Smart charge and the Horford bucket late, and considering Lebron went 7-11 for 15 points in the fourth, that’s pretty annoying.

To be fair though, the refs were bad on both sides, the Celtics took more FTs, and were called for less fouls. It just sucks that on plays where there are clear fouls, the refs held back because of his early foul trouble. This is why it was so crucial for the Celts to extend that lead in the second quarter, and the couldn’t.

– It’s a common theme that whenever a team plays the Celtics, franchise or career records seem to happen. Well, let’s take a look at last night. We got, Kyrie setting a franchise career playoff high for points in a quarter (21), Kevin Love setting a career playoff high in rebounds, and Kyrie Irving setting a career high in playoff points, and the Cavs tied a franchise record in playoff FG%. Yup, that sounds about right.

– Always unfortunate when your starting backcourt goes 8-28 (1-12).

The Ugly 

– The Basketball Gods can be cruel. We all LOVED seeing Marcus go 7/10 from deep, ignoring the fact that of course, that would come with a price. Well, we paid that price last night. A 39 minute 1-9 (1-5) performance, you could say things crashed back down to earth a little bit. This is why hot takes are so dangerous. He stopped moving the ball in the second half, 4 of his 6 shot attempts were threes, and you can see how different things go when the Celtics need to rely on Marcus’ SCORING. He finished a -1, and the trend continues of the Celtics losing every time he’s a negative in +/-.

– Reminder: Not a carry

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– The Cavs ridiculous shooting in the second half is one thing, but the bigger reason the Celtics lost this game was the way they reverted to all their bad habits from earlier in the series. They went back to not rebounding (18-12), they turned it over 9 times, and stopped playing defense. In those 24 minutes the Cavs destroyed the Celtics in points in the paint (36-10), fastbreak points (10-2), took the lead with 3:15 left in the third, and never trailed again. That’s not great.

– While I think Jae had a pretty good night at times, there was one really bad stretch that will probably stick in most people’s minds. It came right here

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A big missed momentum three, followed up by a bad turnover, and foul. After the strong start, he finished just 2-7 (1-4) in the second half and was a -21.

– This team misses Isaiah Thomas maybe more than some want to admit. That is all I will say on this matter.

Which brings us to Thursday night. Can the Celtics finally have a good game at home this series? If the last two are any indication, I’d say it’s possible. Win that, and take the confidence that you know you can play well in CLE and who knows. I’m not saying all the sudden the Celts can win this series, I just want them to continue to go down swinging is all.