Post-game Reactions

ESPN RecapCavs the BlogFear the SwordWFNY

Pace: 89 possessions (a tick below average)

Offensive Efficiency: 105.6 points/100 possessions (below average)

Defensive Efficiency: 116.9 points allowed/100 possessions (worse than the Raptors)

Thumbnail: The C’s tied this game at 68 mid-way through the 3rd quarter, but over the next 9:49 Boston shot 1-of-16 from the floor and 2-of-6 at the line as Cleveland opened up a 17-point lead. But the 68-68 tie was misleading; the C’s were outclassed in this game, and Cleveland kept the C’s in it by bricking too many foul shots. Boston committed a season-high 33 fouls which led to 48 Cavs foul shots—also a season-high for a Boston opponent. The C’s three-point defense was sloppy. Anderson Varejao was everywhere. LeBron James shot 14 free throws in one half. This was not an enjoyable three hours of my life.

Recap: There really isn’t much more to say than that thumbnail above. The Cavaliers were better than the Boston Celtics today, and, to be frank, the gap felt pretty large for most of the game. The C’s could not stop Cleveland without fouling, and they could not get enough good looks near the rim on offense to stay in the game.

Sure, it felt nice when the C’s tied the game at 68-68 with 5:13 to go in the 3rd, but it also felt like fool’s gold. The Cavs missed 17 free throws in this game, and had missed about a dozen by the time the C’s tied it up. Even at that moment, Cleveland felt in control of the game—a game, by the way, which the Celtics badly wanted to win. And that last tidbit makes the loss more disturbing.

By my count, the C’s missed three shots you might call “really good looks” during that horrific 1-of-16 stretch bridging the 3rd and 4th quarters. Those were: Two Sheed (1-of-8 for the game and a team-worst -17, thanks for showing up) turnarounds in the post—which were well-defended but still decent shots—and a wide-open Finley 21-footer along the left baseline. 

The other 13? Tough shots—A quick-release Sheed three-pointer (NO!), a Daniels floater in traffic, two Rondo floaters on the move, a semi-contested three from Finley, a KG turnaround against a double-team on the left baseline and….you know what? I’ll stop.

My point is this: As fans, we have a tendency to talk about a 1-of-16 stretch as an offensive collapse, blaming our team instead of crediting the other. But there were two teams on the court, and when one is as good as Cleveland—a top-10 defensive team—the story is never as simple as “the good guys blew it.”

Go back and watch every Boston screen/roll, and with about a half-dozen exceptions (mostly involving KG as the screener on the side of the court) you’ll see Cleveland had them pretty well-covered. 

As for the other end: Do you know how hard it is to allow a team to score 117 points per 100 possessions while limiting them to 41 percent shooting? No team in the league averages more than 114.3 points per 100 possessions, so Cleveland’s offense produced at a league-best level while hitting a lower percentage of their shots than the worst-shooting team in the league. (That’d be the Nets, checking in at 42.8 percent).

Four things happened:

• The Cavs were 5-of-8 from three early before petering out and finishing 7-of-22;

• The C’s committed more fouls than in any game this season; 

• The C’s yielded 17 offensive boards, tied for the 2nd-most they’ve allowed in a game this season

• The C’s, a team that forces turnovers more often per possession than all but one club (Golden State), forced just eight Cavalier turnovers. That is four fewer turnovers than Atlanta’s per-game average, which is the lowest in the league. 

Bad stuff all across the stat sheet. Let’s investigate some of these things further in bullet form.


• On LeBron: His game plan today was so obvious—and so self-consciously constructed—that if I didn’t know his game or his team any better, I might call it distasteful. LBJ attempted just four field goals and two free throws in the 1st half. Only one of his four field goal attempts came at the rim. He concentrated on getting his teammates involved and running the screen/roll as a distributor. 

The second half? Get out of the dude’s way. LBJ launched 17 shots, drew approximately 98 fouls on drives to the rim and got to the line 14 times. In a half.  It was an almost ridiculous, video game version of the classic star player “I’ll get my teammates involved early and take over late” strategy we always read about.

Kobe Bryant used to do things like this (see the 2006 Game 7 against Phoenix when he basically refused to shoot), but he did so—only at times, LA fans!—out of some petulant need to prove his worth as a shooter. LBJ has good intentions. You can see why his teammates love him.

• It’s time to stop talking about Anderson Varejao as an annoying flopper and start talking about him as a really damn good player. I realize that’s not going to be a popular sentiment here, and I’m not saying he doesn’t indulge in the occasional soccer-esque dive. But his impact on this game was incredible. The Cavs scored three extra points in the first half because Varejao worked hard enough to prevent Boston from doing one of the simplest thing in hoops: rebounding an opponent’s missed free throw.

This is a remarkable thing. The defensive team rebounds missed FTs about 95 percent of the time, according to a study SI’s Chris Ballard cited in his new book, The Art of a Beautiful Game. If you watch the tape, you’ll see that all Varejao did was work—he lunged into the lane with a quickness and aggression few players in the league will ever match on a missed foul shot.

On the first such play (9:30, 2nd Q), he got around Rasheed Wallace, latched onto Sheed’s right hip and prevented Sheed from controlling the board; Sheed deflected the ball out of bounds. Varejao drew a foul on the ensuing possession and knocked down both FTs. 

On the second miss (4:07, 2nd Q), he got into the center of the paint more quickly than the man responsible for boxing him out (KG) anticipated. Garnett had to turn 180 degrees from the basket and push his forearms against Varejao’s upper body to keep him from the rebound. Foul on KG, 1-of-2 at the line for Varejao. 

Three extra points. The Celtics average game is a win by about 4.4 points, according to ESPN.com. For one player, through quickness and effort, to get his team three extra points—in one half—by rebounding missed free throws is a huge, huge thing. 

• Also of note: The C’s switched on screen/rolls involving LBJ more tonight than I can ever remember. They didn’t seem to mind switching Rajon Rondo onto him, and I counted at least four times when Perk ended up guarding LeBron one-on-one after a screen/roll switch. 

One possible take: This could represent the team’s recognition that Paul Pierce can no longer credibly guard LeBron one-on-one for long periods of time. I don’t think we would have seen switches so often in 2008. But I have to think a bit more about this.

• Michael Finley can make shots, but his defense is as poor so far as advertised. Check the 10:50 mark on the 2nd quarter, when Varejao streaks in from the left wing to convert a follow dunk. He’s able to do that because Delonte West, dribbling on the opposite side of the floor, beats Finley cleanly without the aid of the screen, forcing Sheed to step away from Varejao and close off the West drive.

Or: The 8:59 mark of the 2nd, when West, in semi-transition, just blows by Finley again on the right wing, forcing multiple Celtics to collapse. West kicks the ball to  wide-open Mo Williams for an easy three-pointer.

• Watch the tape of that Williams three-pointer, and you’ll see what to my eyes is a bad secondary mistake by Williams’ man, Nate Robinson. Williams is cutting down from the top of the three-point arc to the foul line as West works on Finley. When Robinson realizes that Finley is beat, he leaves Williams at the foul line and helps down on West, even though two C’s defenders are in the paint waiting for Delonte.

Williams sees his chance, stops his cut at the line and darts out to the three-point line for the easy bomb. 

Rivers pulled Nate shortly after this play, and Robinson, such a spark in recent games, played just four minutes in the 1st half and 8:11 total in the game.

He only scored four points, but Glen Davis showed us why he can be such a big asset to this team. Three offensive boards and a drawn charge in just over 15:00 of playing time. He has a skill set that is unique on this team.

• Nice to see Leon Powe doing what Leon Powe does: Six foul shots in 8:17 of playing time. He’s a foul-drawing machine. Always has been. Good to see him back. 

That’s it for tonight. Enjoy filling out your NCAA brackets, and we’ll get back at this Celtic thing tomorrow.

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Zach Lowe

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  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    the fact that no one has commented yet says it all. the hope for a title is officially done. 2nd round exit is the ceiling barring a freak rash of injuries across the east.

    even though this was a depressing game….i am kinda proud of the guys…..you could see they really wanted to put it all together today and fight through a victory….but they just aren’t an elite team anymore….i’m sure it is killing this proud group of vets on a long flight back home.

  • @kool-aid: There really isn’t much to say. The Cavs are better. The C’s couldn’t hang.

  • I love Green

    Its gonna be awhile until we have another chance at the title. No money to spend this offseason, old guys getting older, nobody with any trade value. Its sad

  • And yes, I agree: It might be time to officially declare the C’s non-contenders.

  • I love Green

    I just hope to get into the second round.

  • @Green: Right now, I’m anticipating a very tough first-round series if they play the Bucks and a semi-easier time if they play anyone else–Raptors lack the defense, Charlotte is too easy for Boston to guard, Miami doesn’t have enough weapons.

    But a first-round win isn’t a given.

  • coach g

    Celts play like a 25 year old Buick deuce and a quarter, leaning from worn out leaf springs, blown out shocks and cracked coil springs.

    Game wasn’t as close as the score.

    All you got left is dirty fouls and excuses!!!!!!!!

  • hallik

    On one of those pick/roll switches, I think in the 4th LBJ drew a foul on Perk and let off a slew of curses, .I was thinking to myself, “if I was Perk, I would foul ‘Bron so hard…” just out pride to Prove a point. I thought it was such a classless move; in 4th you’re up double digits. You think LAMBEER, Bird, MJ, would let that stuff slide? Even a younger KG! Lame.

  • Michael

    This has been the most depressing 3 mos as a Celtic fan i have been apart of. Even when the Celtics were bad i had a little hope. I have zero now! What can we do in the offseason to right this ship? My prediction Celtics out in the first round!

  • hallik

    Lebron won’t win it this year either. Anyone but the Layers or Cavs….I still say Sheed needs to go, TA, Scal, Fat A$$ Uno Uno, perhaps even Nate! I just hate loosing!

  • DRJ1

    – Let’s not forget how many wide-open 3s the Cavs got… Cs were lucky they missed so many of them, or it would have been a total blowout.
    – Same story with FTs.
    – Don’t forget, though, that the Cavs got 5 points on sheer dumb luck – the falling-down 3 by LBJ in Q1, and the Varajeo rebound-tip that found its way into the net in Q2.
    – Take those lucky 5 points away, and even-out the FTs, and you have a close game.
    – But…. Cs sucked in the 2nd half. That was obvious.
    – Paul looked just terrible. Verging on hopeless kind of terrible. At one point, a simple LBJ crossover broke his ankles and brought him to ground (where he seemed to live in the 2nd half).

    – Anything can happen in the playoffs. I am willing to accept as fact that Sheed WILL get much better then. (Yes, it’s far from certain, but let’s pretend, because otherwise there’s nothing more to talk about at all.)
    – But Perk probably won’t — he, like all of us, can’t grow new neurons.
    – Same story for Doc.
    – Paul is most worrisome. Time for Doc to start thinking about someone else to start instead of Paul. Quis? Fin?
    – Oh, but wait… it’s Doc. Fuhgetaboutit.

  • DRJ1

    – It’s arguable that the bench cost the Cs this game, hitting only 5-25. Nate didn’t take a single 3pt shot – his awesome specialty of late. And he played only 8 minutes, pulled by Doc as Zach described. Sheed as a disgusting 1-8, only 2 of which were 3-pointers (both missed, of course). Even fin was only 2-7, his first bad game as a C.

    – Some good news: Rondo’s FTs are getting better and better.
    – Since the All-Star break: 42/58 = 72.5%
    – Past 9 games: 33/43 = 76.7%
    – Past 5 games: 19/24 = 79.2%
    – Past 2 games: 6/6 = 100%
    This could be a big deal, especially if Rondo will need to take over some games in the playoffs. We may not have to worry about his FTs anymore… a huge improvement over just a little while ago.

  • Ian

    Hey I posted this in the last article but I’ll post it here too.

    My apologies Zach. I swear I read an article where you talked about how refreshing it was to see Michael Finley hit open shots. I haven’t seen the celtics in awhile (currently in Hong Kong) but hearing that Finley was strong I decided to stay up all night to watch the game (always make a point to see early games of each new player) and I just wanted to kick a door in when I kept seeing Finley miss open shots. Made me want to punch a wall after he took the heavily contested three. If you aren’t hitting open shots, don’t look for bad shots. However, I must apologize for saying you jinxed him. I am quite tired and easily prone to mistakes.

  • Jay Cutler

    I shudder to think of where the Cs would be if they started out in the Western conference. The unspoken truth is everyone knows it’s going to get worse. There’s no ‘hyperdrive switch’ come playoff time.

    The Celtics tried real hard to keep their panties on this game but the secret’s out.

  • Jay P

    Wallace is the most infuriating, lazy, worthless player on a basketball court. Watching that mop-headed freak run circles around him while he tip toed around the basket and and refused to put a body on anyone was nauseating.

    I disagree with the analysis that the Cavs were just a better team, the Celtics did not get out played, they got out WORKED.

    The Cavs won on energy and second chance point. The Celtics just run their sets, or play 24 seconds of defense, and give up. They did it all night, they’d play great defense, work hard, force a tough shot, and then every stands around and waits for the rebound to come to them.

    Or on offense, run a good set, get a good shot, and watch it miss, oh well, lets just get back on D, no effort whatsoever.

    Say all you want about how they want to transition back rather than crash the boards, but we have bigs underneath who aren’t even TRYING to get around blockers, they just stand there then trot downcourt. The only exception is Davis, who fights for every ball, every time.

    The Cavs just worked harder, and wanted it more. Now was this just because the Cs are old and can’t keep up with that kinda energy anymore? Maybe. Or are they waiting for the playoffs to start giving that extra effort? Maybe.

    If it’s the former, we have no chance, we’ll lose in the first round. If it’s the latter, we have a shot.

  • DRJ1

    @Jay P– I’ve been hopin’ it’s the latter — that they’re gonna flip their last switch for the playoffs. Problem is… Paul looks like has not switch to flip… looks old, beat, confused, unable. And Perk just doesn’t seem to be able to get it. Will Doc’s thinking improve? Maybe, who knows.

    Still… keeping fingers crossed for the playoffs. Hoping… against hope, it seems lately.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    We don’t have even one player who hustles as much as Varejao. It’s sort of sickening & heartbreaking to see a guy from Brazil work harder & care more about the game than any of our guys.

    About the only chance we have for energy & desire similar to that is if Perk, Paul, KG, Ray, etc. are getting dunks (or ez buckets) at the offensive end. Rondo is going to have to be creative, keep his dribble, & demolish the defense getting his boys ez buckets, especially dunks if we are going to have that frenzied, swarming, suffocating defense on the other end. The only time I’ve seen that tooth & nail defense is when players are fired up from scoring at the offensive end. I know it’s not supposed to be that way, but the most energy I’ve seen them play with is after they’ve dominated on the offensive end. I think Rondo is going to have to have more assists than points for this team to be energized enough to put the hammer down on the defensive end. I just don’t see Paul or Ray or KG being self motivated & throwing down forty or fitty & taking over a quarter, half, or game. It’s really up to Rondo to see who is hot ….see what is working….and feed the pig big fat cupcakes (super ez passes) right in front of the feeding trough (rim) . Rondo is going to be exhausted working so hard to pick apart the defense to get guys bunnies, but it’s really the only way I see to get more effort on the defensive end. Perk or any other C feeling good about themselves at the offensive end really carries over to a lot more hustle & interest in getting stops on the defensive end. It may sound strange, but Rondo has got to go for assist records getting others heavily involved & feeling good about themselves offensively so that we can see that feel good energy on the defensive end to get stops.

  • hemlock09

    as a cavs fan, id love to stick a dagger in the celtics. but i cant. because there are some young teams in the playoffs (miami), and then there are some very young teams in the playoffs (bucks and bobcats). and it doesnt really matter what happens in the regular season, in the playoffs, young teams get owned. i wouldnt write off the celtics yet.

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  • Dan

    This is actually a good thing. Now I won’t feel guilty getting swept up in the awesomeness that is the OKC Thunder.

  • Ray Leighton

    Definitely not good enough. Some points to ponder though:

    DRJ1 brought up that the bench may have cost us this one. Yes, those two turnovers by Rondo and KG were awful. But the bench was worse.

    Some data — LeBron scored 30, but it took him 21 shots to do it. He was +3 — compared to Pierce’s +4. Jamison was +3 — compared to KG’s +4. But the Cavs’ bench had a slew of people way in the positive, and we had…. four guys from the bench who each played more than 10 minutes, and each of whom were -10 or worse.

    The whole point of getting these “better” bench players was so that our starters could rest. Yes, we have an old team. We have to recognize that KG and Paul and Ray are not going to be much more productive if they play 35 minutes than if they play 30. So the bench has to step up and be consistent and stay in the game. If the older guys are forced to play 35 because the bench is getting blown out, then we have little chance.

    I still think that there may be a flip-the-switch mentality wrt the playoffs. Yes, it is harder to come back from injuries when you are older, but it is also really hard to believe that the team has aged so much since Xmas?!

    This is disturbing, but envision that you are 23-5, you are the best road-team in the league, you have proven that you can stomp anyone but you have some older guys who have to be healthy and rested for the playoffs if you want to win the championship. So….
    …how many wins do you need to guarantee home-court in the first round of the East, while still keeping your old guys rested? Probably around 50? Then all you have to do then is play .500 ball for the rest of the season, and you get 50 wins.

    Guess what? The C’s are still on track to win 50. Maybe last year losing KG just scared them too much. It’s frustrating to watch though.

    And most of you guys aren’t old enough to remember this, but back in the 60s, the C’s used to do this. When I was a little kid, the first season I watched basketball was 1968-69. I remember people saying that Bill Russell was too old, couldn’t jump any more, couldn’t defend. Sounds just like what everyone says about KG now. The C’s finished fourth and won just 48 games, and looked old and tired in doing so. There were a lot of Celtic fans who thought they were done.

    Then the Celtics just destroyed everyone in the playoffs and won another championship.

    I have to wonder if Russ is talking to KG about what he needs to do to win as he gets older….

    Anyway, I’m hoping.

  • DRJ1

    A note about those 2 TOs in Q3, around the 4:00 mark. They’ve been blamed on the pass throwers, KG and Rondo. But it wasn’t all their fault. It was more the other guys.

    In the first one, Perk was outside the block on the right side when he signaled KG for the ball, with his arm. KG made a leading pass, expecting Perk to roll to the basket. Pretty reasonable expectation, since that’s where the points are. Instead, Perk inexplicably (gotta use that word a lot when talking about Perk lately) headed TOWARD KG, just as the pass was released. TO.

    The 2nd case was the exact same story, only with Paul calling for the pass, and Rondo making the leading pass as Paul turned toward Rondo (also inexplicably).

    Just interesting detail on what happened. Fits the overall pattern of the game. KG and Rondo were pretty good. Paul and Perk were pretty bad. Fits.

  • Rich

    I’m a cavs fan and don’t want to start trouble, but this is at the guy who said it was classless by LeBron to let go of the slew of curses he had after the and-1. Most times, I would agree. But when it comes from a a Boston fan who is a supporter of KG, then I can’t let it go. KG, more than anyone in the league, curses out players every chance he gets no matter time and score.

    Basically, I have no problem with LeBron doing it if the other team has a guy who does it every game, whether up 20 or down 20 (like he did this game).

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  • Conall Mac Michael

    Posted this is the last article but like Ian i’ll put it here too.

    This game pissed me off.The only link I could find that worked was in Spanish, and while it did make a welcome change from the usual shite that Mark Jackson and JVG spew, it was kind of annoying. I can’t understand why this team doesn’t run more stuff for Ray, it’s painful to watch Daniels put up a contested turn around fade away J while Ray is standing a few feet away from him wide open. Don’t even talk to me about Sheed. Despite my anger I’m happy with a few things. For nearly 3 quarters we were right there while shooting a terrible % from deep and with Pierce taking a while to get going. Kg was stroking it nicely and Rondo had a decent game. A lot of tippy tappy fouls called which always pisses me off. The major difference between the two teams was the Cavs ability to go on a run. They went on that run to push the score up to 17 in what seemed like a few seconds. I barely noticed it. The C’s just can’t seem to do that anymore. Everything seems laboured with them. Also the Cavaliers crowd are the biggest load of bollix goin. A marque match up that’s largely competitive for nearly 4 quarters and their nearly asleep. Pathetic. Ar aon nós. Lá Fhéile Pádraig doibh, chuile duine. Oh and I hate Varajao.

  • hallik

    @Rich: Dude, the game was over in the 4th, he isolated Perk. Are you serious? I took offense to that! You, got it though, b/c my team has no Bollix to put a flagarant 1 on him! I would have though just to prove a point! LBJ will loose yet another title; and leave Cleaveland! (KG also swears at the environment not anyone in particular…LOL)

  • Jay P

    @Ray Leighton

    Very interesting comment, Ray, I like the piece about the old Russell Celtics. Here’s to hoping my friends, here’s to hoping.

    All we have left as this point is the hope that that is true.

  • @Ray L: Good stuff. But that ’69 season was an anomaly for the Russell-era, C’s no–the last one, the one where they were on fumes and sorta conceded the regular season before turning it on in the playoffs…The rest of the time, that team was a machine in the regular season.

    But the comparison is there in terms of an aging club toiling through the regular year. Copy and paste that comment in my post from this morning on expectations!

  • Jay P

    This from Doc Rivers post-game interview:

    “The only way to stop quickness is to be more physical,” said Rivers. “That was the game plan coming in and we never got a body on him. A lot of the time we were standing right there and just didn’t get a body on him.”

    At least he’s recognizing the problem, 17 offensive rebounds, 27 second chance points, that’s the game right there. Cut that number in half, and the celtics win.

    Now what are they going to do about it? If the rest of this season so far is any indication. Probably nothing. They just talk about knowing the problems, say they’ll fix em, then do it again.

  • cmoney

    Our starting 5 is one of the best 5 man units in basketball. No, seriously, look it up.

    It’s our non-starting lineups that are killing us. Some of that’s just the bench quality. Guys like Sheed and Quisy didn’t turn out so hot. Some of it (a lot of it), is on Doc. His rotations are absurd. FFD is just killing us, but Shelden still can’t get burn. Tony Allen, who’s actually been decent and better than someone like Quisy, gets benched for old man Finley. We start the 2nd and 4th Qs with little offensive power. Hence, we tend to lose a lot of ground during these stretches.

    This isn’t rocket science.

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