|Fast Break: Nothing Cavalier about Celtics victory||02.28.12 at 9:44 pm ET|
In a battle between two teams vying for eighth in the Eastern Conference (yup, you read that right), the Celtics blew a 16-point lead but salvaged the night when Ray Allen sandwiched a fast-break layup and two free throws around a big Kevin Garnett offensive rebound in the final minute to secure an 86-83 win over the Cavaliers.
Allen (22) and Garnett (18) combined for 40 points to help the Celtics (16-17) avoid the first six-game losing streak of the new Big Three era and stretch their lead over the Cavs (13-19) to 2.5 games for the eighth seed.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Welcome back Bass: The Celtics finished 1-5 in Bass’ recent six-game absence, and it didn’t take long for the consistent big man to demonstrate his value on the court, scoring 10 points on six shots by halftime. Bass brings a combination of scoring and toughness that the C’s simply don’t have outside of Garnett. If the Celtics have any hope for success in the second half of the season, they need a healthy Bass contributing like this.
Nothing but Garnett: Garnett reportedly called a team meeting prior to the All-Star break, and even if the entire team didn’t respond in its first game since, at least KG came to play. Wincing at times, possibly still battling the hip injury that kept him out of a game before the break, Garnett totaled 18 points and eight boards while playing his usual staunch defense. In the final seconds with the C’s leading by one, Garnett willed an offensive rebound off his own miss, got fouled and made both foul shots.
Jumping the run: Perhaps the result of an aging team benefiting from the five-day NBA All-Star break, the Celtics rattled off runs of 9-0 and 13-0 in the first quarter to establish a rare double-digit lead early (28-15 after one). Rondo recorded six assists in the first 12 minutes, including one on another fast break with his new running mate Chris Wilcox. The have only led after the first quarter in 16 of their 33 games, accumulating a 12-4 record.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Sloppy second quarter: After committing just two turnovers and building a 13-point lead in the first quarter, the C’s turned the ball over 10 times in the second quarter as the Cavs closed the gap to five by halftime. Rajon Rondo (0 points, 11 assists, 5 turnovers) and Paul Pierce (12 points, 6 assists, 6 turnovers) combined for eight first-half turnovers in a poorly played stretch that was a stark reminder of the team’s struggles all season.
Turd quarter: It must not have been much of a halftime speech, as the Cavaliers picked up where they left off out of the break — wiping the glass with the Celtics. Led by rookie sensation Kyrie Irving (24 points), the Cavs took their first lead since 4-2 at 53-51 early in the third quarter and maintained control with a 66-64 lead after three. Despite outshooting Cleveland percentage-wise 45-40, the C’s gave the Cavs far too many opportunities due to turnovers and poor defensive rebounding.
Semih conductor: Semih Erden started for the Cavaliers against the Celtics. Let that sink in for a little bit. Sure, he didn’t make a huge impact, but he did contribute four points, six rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes. Considering the C’s size woes and the fact they essentially gave Erden away for nothing (a late second-round pick), think Danny Ainge might want that one back?
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