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Rock Bottom? Cavs 95, Celtics 90

Boston Celtics 90 Final

Recap | Box Score

95 Cleveland Cavaliers

Five Things We Saw

  1. This game was almost kind of reflective of the entire season for the C’s. In the first half, the defense wasn’t working when the offense one. C’s then step up the defensive intensity at the half and can’t get a shot to fall in the second half (26 percent shooting). This team can’t seem to run on all cylinders at any point and the result is losses like this against inept teams.
  2. The Paul Pierce slump watch is now on high-alert. One of his worst nights of the season going 3-for-15, with his jumpshot looking extremely flat at times. He’s shooting 32 percent in his past five games, 17 percent from deep. I don’t mind the slumps (they will happen). I do mind him having to take 15 shots when he’s in one, essentially stalling the offense.
  3. Kyrie Irving just kills the Celtics. He hit a game-winner for them in Boston last year, and did the almost same thing tonight to help put the game away in the near charge on Jared Sullinger. Not quite sure why Rondo was on him more than Avery Bradley (assuming it has something to do with Avery’s injury). Still, once the Cavs get some reinforcements around him, this will be a fun team.
  4. Six points in the paint in the second half for the Celtics. 10 turnovers in the second half for the Celtics. When you can’t score around the basket against the likes of Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson, you have issues.
  5. The next three-game stretch vs. NY, @ ATL, vs. Miami should be incredibly telling. Bright lights will be on all three games around the country.
  • Vincent

    Losing to NO at home and Cleveland on the road is pretty damn telling. This team is not good. At least we can enjoy the Lakers totally unexpected slide to mediocrity.

  • Phil725

    Does rock bottom imply that it's impossible to go lower, or just that it's the current low? Because things could get a lot lower real quick, especially with a ticked off Knicks team coming in.

  • Danny

    Can’t say I’ve ever been more disaapointed in a celtics team. This team is terrible just facing facts. And honestly there is no quick fix or easy solution. Do u ride it out to a potential 8 seed and first round exit or blow it up for pennies on the dollar. Personally I think with rondo Bradley n sully there’s a decent young core to build around but who knows. That’s why I’m not paid to make the decisions.

    • CelticsBIG3

      I guess you missed the team where we started Eric Montross.

  • IBleedGreen

    I heard the Garden will be selling honey nut cheerios during the Knicks game.

  • High Rollers

    Will anybody really be shocked if the C’s beat the Knicks Thursday?

    Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    Now… Bass and Terry, wtf?

  • Morpheus

    Next 3 games determine the season for this team.

  • check12check

    I really want to say the C's played down the the cav's level, but i just think this is what this team is at this point. Mediocre at best

    • Dmitry

      Celtics just want Miami to feel what its like when mediocre team beats you, Rondo is a beasty python playing with rabbits. GO Cs!

  • High Rollers

    Morpheus, I want to agree with you there, and I do to the extent that the effort at consistency will be telling. But it’s three major opponents, three regulars, that I just can’t picture the C’s folding tent against. (Atlanta might be the toughest in a dreaded segababa situation.) Reaching or not reaching the playoffs, isn’t that what determines how far a team can go, trades or no trades?

    • Phil725

      I wonder about that though. Isn't it kind of like Jeff Green or Rondo at this point? We know those high ceiling moments are there, reaching it consistently is the problem. I wouldn't be surprised if the Cs went and blew the Knicks out, or even if they put together a winning streak soon. But there are only so many losses to non-playoff teams, losses at home, blowout losses to bad teams etc, that you can take before it's just clear that they won't be able to string together enough wins in the playoffs for it to matter.

      In that case, isn't it Ainge's job to look for ways to improve the team down the road? Is he at that point yet? I've said it before, but this team is scary bad next year right now, so they need to decide before February whether or not they're true contenders.

      • High Rollers

        I think as long as Ainge sees the C's reaching the 2013 playoffs with KG, Rondo, Pierce, Bradley, and Sully healthy and ready to go, he'll do no more than attempt some tweaking. The state of things being what it is, that leaves a lot more questions than answers, of course. One wild ride.

      • check12check


        could not agree more. Do you think they can be a real contender? I used think one more solid big and we could compete, but i'm not so sure anymore

        • Phil725

          The stance I take on trades is that the only way they make a real deal is if it's to blow it up. I don't see a potential trade to put the team over the top because you have to give something up. This team doesn't have the assets to make a trade for a solid big. Lee alone (or with a first round pick) isn't enough to get you a big better than Bass (it might be actually, but that's just because it's possible Bass is just near unplayable-terrible now.) Who else do you trade? Rebuilding teams will want Sully or Bradley, but those guys are too important to the team to be traded. You won't match their lost production 'and' improve the team overall.

          Therefore, it's this team as is, or nothing. I'm still not writing them off officially because there's no incentive for me to do so. It's the same players from the run last year, and guys like Bass and Rondo didn't lose their ability in the offseason. I have faith in guys like Terry, and the bench as a whole has played pretty well lately, it's the starters failing them. Things look bleak now, but the East is still terrible.

          That said, I may have subconsciously written them off. I did the 'punch the table to grab the remote and angrily change the channel' move after the Bulls loss, and I calmly nodded as the refs called the block on Sully tonight. Hard to argue with the split second reactions-no time to rationalize those.

    • Morpheus

      I just think that this team has hit rock bottom and the time*( if ever there was one) to turn this season around starts against the Knickers at home. If they can string together a 6-7 game win streak then this season is not lost.

      More telling would be how Terry, Green maybe ass i mean Bass perform over the next 3 games. Consistency is a problem for this team, but there's still a glimmer of hope yet for these guys,or maybe not, we will see.

  • High Rollers

    Phil, aren’t we unfortunately already at the point where no matter what kind of roll we do or don’t go on before the AS Break, there’ll be some doubt in the back of the mind about this team’s resolve? If I played for the C’s right now, though, not only would I be ridiculously happy for the gig but I’d also be starting to feel like nothing to lose. There’s sort of a freedom in realizing you can’t convince the people outside the lines. I guess it’s a half full half empty thing. I hope our guys are half full.

    • Phil725

      I think that doubt is a given as far as the opinions of people who don't matter though. The Cs have been written off as non-contenders nationally for years now, even if Cs fans have continued to believe. It doesn't really matter if a few more fans go over to the doubting side.

      The person who's opinion really matters is Ainge. If he doesn't think the glass is half-full and he makes a major deal with the future in mind, then there will definitely be no playoff run. I thought Doc's threat would ring in the players' ears big time, but then they came out and gave up 31 1st quarter points to the 27th best offense and eventually lost.

      The big thing to factor in is that this team is currently capped out. The only means they have to improve the team this offseason is the MLE and a (probably) non-lottery first rounder. If you're close to a title, fine. If not, you have to start rebuilding. Maybe Ainge waits until the offseason to know for sure, but I'm not sure what his motivation is to put off a great future deal if one presents itself before the deadline.

  • Banner18

    I could be completely incorrect but i feel as though Pierce could be the weakest link for this team. Does anyone have his PER/how well the team performs when he's off the court. Again, I could just be frustrated with his recent slump (doesn't slump require that he was once in a constant rhythm this season?), but I think his minutes need to go elsewhere. Josh Smith anyone?

    • Phil725

      It's funny you mention that, because I had the same exact thought during the game (probably somewhere between the 11th and 12th time he hit front rim,) so I looked this up, and the numbers were surprising: The team is better offensively with Pierce on the court, and it's not really that close-3.8 points per 100 possessions.

      Without Pierce (and he's played about 2/3 of the minutes on the year,) the team has an offensive rating of 99.7 (going off BBall reference numbers again, there's slight differences in how the different sites count possessions, so the numbers are different.) That's ahead of the Wizards and only the Wizards. It's not the gaudy totals he's put up in recent seasons (+13.6 in 10-11!!) but that could be explained with the bench being better/not being terrible like those years.

      One of the reasons I looked the number up was because I wanted to find where the blame was for the fact that the team performs much worse with Rondo, and Rondo was on (offensively,) tonight, and the team still wasn't able to score, so I thought Pierce might be the reason, but that's not it. The bench lineups (Play the bench/KG line more Doc!) have been very effective lately, and Pierce's numbers are still great. I'm still left wondering how the team is 2.9 points worse with Rondo and 3.7 points better with Pierce, despite the fact that they play most of their minutes together. Are lineups with Rondo and without Pierce just a total disaster? With Pierce and w/o Rondo great? I'll have to check that when I get a chance.

      Looking at PER, Pierce is at 19.3 on the year. That's a little below his career average, but the career averages are propped up from big years pre-Big3. He's actually slightly above his Big-3 average PER. Those numbers are still well above average and at all-star level too. So basically, Pierce hurt the team tonight because he took 15 shots when he was off, but there's no evidence I can find that he's hurting the team on the year. In fact, I'd still argue that he's being asked to carry too heavy of a load.

      • Banner18

        Interesting. I guess it makes sense because he is one of the most underrated facilitators in the game. It also brings me to the question: Should we deal Jason Terry? Lets face it, this guy cannot create his own shots at the PG and hasn't even been consistent shooting of a screen. If he can't put the ball in the bucket then why is he even still on this team?Is it for his lackluster defense? Moreover, my perception is that we should cut a few minutes of Rondos play, and reallocate them to Pierce playing the point forward. Thoughts?

        • Phil725

          The question is who's going to trade for Terry? He's a 35 year old SG on a 3 year, 5m dollar deal. He has no value to rebuilding teams because he'll be out of the league in a couple years and he makes a lot of money until then. That leaves a few offensively challenged contenders (Indy comes to mind, I refuse to believe the Lance Stephenson is better than Terry.) But teams like that are trying to win now too, so they're not gonna give you anything good. Best case scenario, you turn Terry into a late 1st round pick and an expiring contract… that doesn't do much for the team this year though.

          I'd actually like to see Lee get more of those Rondo minutes, anything that avoids the Rondo/Terry backcourt that struggles defensively 'and' has Terry playing way out of position. I'm bordering on a Terry apologist, but I do think he has value to this team. Even while struggling, he's part of the lineups that have been most successful lately.

    • KillerGymRat

      Pierce is definitely not the weakest link…though I can see why you and others might think this. I did some numbers last night on him and during the 6 game win streak he averaged 18.2 points, but that is factoring in a 7pt game and 13pt game where his offense wasn't needed and he had higher assists. Subtract those and you get 22.75 ppg during the other four wins.

      But during this 4 game skid, he's averaging just a tick under 12 ppg and nobody else is picking up the scoring load (save for Rondo's 30ppg against the bulls – which happend to be the only close loss), so you end up with ugly losses and finger pointing.

      The problem this season is really the problem any team has with aging stars. Do you trade them? Or do you deal with the inevitable decline in production. We're seeing it less with KG because his height and length are always going to make him a factor. At small forward foot speed and quickness is everything. And that's the first thing to go. I remember it when it happend to Larry Legend, and it was just as disheartening. He missed a dunk in a playoff game against Indiana that could have won the game and the series. He was trying to make a statement with an athletic play…and it backfired. It cost the team a basket and revealed that his bad back had finally gotten the better of him. It was his last playoff run…and the end of a legend. Boston kept him out of loyalty, and I didn't mind losing just to see him stay in green.

      Flash forward to Pierce and now we're seeing it again. He's still an incredible scorer. But the grind of an 82 game season is just too much for his body now. He can't do it everynight…but like any great player they will never stop trying…because in their mind they "should" still be able to do those things. You saw Jordon go through the same thing with Washington. He could score, but he couldn't be Jordon-esque anymore. And poor Shaq gave out just trying to run down the court. The heart was there, but the body just refused. No great athlete ever wants to accept their best games are behind them. After the win streak Celtics Hub posted a concern about PP playing such heavy minutes…and now we are seeing the effects of that. You can see from how flat his shot is that he's exhausted.

      I agree with Phil725 that he is worn out from trying to carry too heavy a load. He also has a mentality like Kobe. All great scorers do. They miss 15 shots and expect to make the next 10 and get hot. It does shoot you out of games when you don't get it going, and unfortunately expose glaring weaknesses in the team when he can't deliver. But Pierce, as he showed a few times this season, is still capable of lighting teams up for 30, but not consistently, so what do you do? Trade him? I hope not. I'll take a losing season (since we're not winning a title anyway) rather then see KG and PP in anything but green.

      But that's me being grateful for all the games when they were as great as they were.

  • elroz

    Well, no way this team is that bad…. I still say they have a lot in them and they have players… It is not guaranteed that they will squeeze what they have in them out and turn into a team…but they have it in them. They have talent…but maybe not character. Character is missing.

    "Paul Pierce slump watch is on" … yes..but who wants to watch that1 Painful and ugly to watch… I would not allow Kobe to take 25-30 shots a game when he is shooting 30%-33%…and I would not allow Pierce to shoot 15 shots when he shooting at or below 30%.

  • Kyrie scored 40, he's going to do that time to time because he's a hell of a player (although i'd have liked more AB on him but whatever). To me the problem was Thompson going 21/9/5 whilst shooting 50% with 4 dunks and walton going 3 for 3 for a nice 7/7/3 line. I can live with their best player outplaying our best player but Luke Walton? That stings.

    • CG12

      100% correct. Kyrie is nasty is going to go off sometimes. You need to make sure that the other guys don't get anything going at the same time. When Walton was totally unmanaged in the 2nd, that's the kind of stuff that will kill you. There were about 4 plays in a row where guys just cut to the rim, with no Celtic in range, and he hit them for pretty much open lay-ups. You just can't let that happen. It seemed like Bass was the one who wasn't D'ing him up, since Walton was playing PF. And athletic big guys like Thompson always give the Cs bigs problems. As Doc said, the effort was better, but not consistent enough.

  • CG12

    Pierce has not looked good recently, but that is what you are going to get with a 35 year old 3-man. But let's not act like he suddenly got old. PP is generally regarded as in the mix for one of the final All-Star slots. Until his recent slump, he was putting up very good offensive numbers. Before the last 4 games, he had been going very well, with his 40 point game last time we played Cleveland being a highlight. PP is going to have his ups and downs, and you just hope that he is able to manage his effort and energy enough to get to the end of the season ready to take it up a notch. You have to figure that pacing their effort plays into this to some extent.

  • CG12

    Rondo needs to do it on both ends of the floor. I was much happier with his assertiveness on offense last night, but his defense remains abysmal. I would vastly prefer that Rondo push the ball hard on offense, get into guys' grills on defense, and only play 30 minutes a game, than have him meander through long stretches of a game where he plays 42 minutes. We have guys who can play those minutes – go hard while you are out there, and then go sit when you get tired. I'd much prefer to see Courtney Lee handling the ball than sit through the ubiquitous "Rondo pounds it at the top of the key for 10 seconds while they run PP or JET off 83 screens" offense. Just no.

  • James H

    It is probably time to start Sullinger with KG, PP, Bradley and Rondo. Let the young nucleus get as much playing time together and with the mentors/leaders on the team before they retire. And it is probably time to stop worrying about accomplishing anything this season. Bass, along with the bench platter of Lee, Terry, Green and co. just don't seem to be able to mesh, score or do anything well enough to matter. If KG or PP are having a bad game, there is no one to call on from that group to step up. Aside from the Jeff Green trade, I don't really fault Ainge for his strategy this year because on paper this group should be doing a whole lot better. Perhaps Doc hasn't figured out how best to use them, or perhaps the chemistry will just never work. In any case, we've got some good potential with Sullinger, Avery and Rondo so I would look to continue to let that develop and start crafting a team around them in the off season.

  • IBleedGreen

    As bad as Pierce looks he's still the best offensive player on our team, and that's exactly what's wrong with this team. We don't have a give-me-the-damn-ball scorer.

  • OlSkool1972

    I'm pointing the finger right at Doc Rivers. His rotations have been terrible this year and he still hasn't figured out which players play best with each other. He needs to ask himself why he's still stuck on starting Bass and Bradley when they are liabilities in the starting lineup. Bass is a complete non factor and for all Bradley's great on ball Defense he's still can't put the ball in the basket consistently. Doc gives certain players way too many minutes Pierce (37 min last night WTF! Doc you do realize this guy is only a year younger than KG don't you) Bass (28 min) Bradley (26 min) while giving some players not enough minutes (Lee 14 min I say again WTF!) Terry (20) Green (21) The only guys whose minutes actually fit were Rondo at 38, KG at 31, and Sullinger at 26 (I'd even start giving Sullinger more time than that). He can make idle threats about getting new players but the bottom line is he needs to kick himself in the behind first and manage this team correctly.

    • hydrofluoric

      I agree with your general sentiment that some of the rotations made no sense, but negged for generally getting it wrong…

      1. Bradley's offense is fine, just low-usage

      2. if you think both Terry and Lee needed more minutes you're in favor of reducing Bradley's minutes to 0?

      3. You want JET and Green to get more minutes when they're playing awfully?!

    • KillerGymRat

      You really think Bradley is a liability *scratching head*

      I say he's shooting pretty damn well for a guy who has barely played 10 games so far, and his defense sets the tone for everything. His corner 3 was money last night as well.

      I do agree on the allotment of minutes. Especially when PP clearly doesn't have it going. I too would like to see more Lee, Terry and Sullinger…though 21 is plenty for Green…until he starts doing something with what he gets.

    • OlSkool1972

      Thumbs down all you like. It doesn't change the fact that other than a few corner threes and some layups off backdoor cuts Bradley doesn't bring consistent Offense. I think Doc bailed on Courtney Lee too early this season and there's no reason he should only be getting 14 minutes in a game.

  • Jonathan

    I'm kind of disapointed that Doc kept in Pierce during that horrible fourth quarter when he has $9 million dollars a year sitting on the bench. At least Green is able to run the fast break. Pierce literally shot us out of the game

  • Josh_5

    You guys, we can break down, x and o and analyze the hell out of this team. I think they're body of work speaks for itself. The Celtics are a known quantity. Inconsistent and a .500 ball club.