|How sixth man Tristan Thompson continues to kill the Celtics off the bench||04.24.15 at 10:45 am ET|
Coming into this series, the Celtics knew they were going to have their hands full with LeBron James. They knew Kyrie Irving could score and big man Kevin Love could knock down big shots from behind the arc. They were well aware of JR Smith and his streaky ability to catch fire in spurts. All four of those players have had big moments in the first three games.
But they may have underestimated the impact of Tristan Thompson.
As a matter of fact, he may be the difference in the series so far coming off Cleveland’s bench. Thompson has controlled the offensive glass and given the Cavaliers second chance after second chance. Against a team with the aforementioned weaponry, that’s a formula for disaster.
There was no better example than in the final three minutes Thursday after Evan Turner‘s three-ball drew the Celtics to within three, 95-92, with 2:45 left. The Celtics appeared to have stopped the Cavaliers on a missed runner from Irving. But there was Thompson, the 6-foot-9 space-eater in the paint. He hauled down the rebound and quickly found Irving again, who dished to Love for an open three on the left wing. Love, who had forever to set himself, knocked it down. 98-92, with just 2:13 left.
With 51.9 seconds left and the Cavs lead just five, 98-93, James missed a jumper but there was that big man in the middle again. Thompson found LeBron, who found Love again. Three-pointer. Ball game.
Thompson had five of Cleveland’s 11 offensive rebounds Thursday in the 103-95 Game 3 win. On Tuesday, he hauled in five of his team’s 12 second chance rebounds. That’s 10 offensive rebounds in a pair of eight-point wins.
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After Thursday’s 103-95 win over the Celtics in Game 3, putting Cleveland up 3 games to none, Cavs coach Dave Blatt acknowledged the battle he’s getting from Brad Stevens, and the leadership he needs from LeBron James.
“I all fairness, we do have players that have been in this situation, that have played these kind of games,” Blatt said. “LeBron’s leadership obviously a huge factor, because he’s the guy that not only guys follow but they feel him, they sense him and his control in these games has been outstanding both in terms of seizing the moment, but also talking guys through situations.
“Coach [Stevens] is right. I think we have showed maturity and poise in how we are playing. This was not an easy game and honestly none of the three games have been easy. Coach Stevens is doing a terrific job with his team and they are competing and playing us tough as it should be in the playoffs.
“Obviously, the job’s not done. We have to win another game. One of the reasons we’ve won these games is that we have respected our opponent, not look past even the game in front of us. Understanding that if we do, we could put ourselves in trouble. We’re going to respect our opponent and come out and compete and play the best game we can possibly play on Sunday.”
What’s been the difference so far for Blatt’s Cavaliers?
“I think our maturity and the fact obviously that we have finishers on our team, guys that know how to finish games,” Blatt said. “Both teams are playing really hard. Both teams are competing. Both teams are very capable. I just think as team we have more maturity but that doesn’t guarantee anything. We’ve got to come out and win another game before I summarize the differences. We’re still in the fight. Boston’s not going away. They haven’t up to this point and they won’t. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
It was James who accompanied JR Smith to the Garden at 9 a.m. Thursday to get a jump start on the shootaround, trying to find the winning edge. Read the rest of this entry »
LeBron James has had a lot of different experiences in Boston.
After pushing the Celtics to the brink of elimination Thursday night with 31 points and 11 rebounds in a 103-95 win in Game 3, basketball’s preeminent superstar reflected on what winning as a visitor means in Boston.
James was asked about what ran through his mind Thursday as he played Boston in the playoffs for the first time since 2010, when he was eliminated in the same building in Game 6 of the Eastern semifinals, his final game in a Cavaliers uniform before heading off to Miami.
“Most all of the players are different [except for] Brandon Bass being on those teams. It’s the same for me. I get great feelings, I get eerie feelings when I come into this building. I’ve been on both sides of the fence here.”
James has always been reviled by Boston fans but considers himself in some select company, joining Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant as great opposing players who found a way to win in a hostile environment.
“The great thing about being here, these fans are loyal to one thing and one thing only, and that’s green. That’s all they see. That’s all they care about. For me being a competitor and for me being a competitor, someone they know personally, to be able to come out here and perform in front of those guys, it means a lot because they know the game. They know basketball. They know sports. It’s a sports town. Between them, the Patriots, the Bruins and the Red Sox, they know sports. For me to be able to have some type of history in this city, it means a lot I guess for my legacy.”
James, of course, needs one more win for his first playoff victory in Boston. He is 0-2, losing not only in 2010 but two years earlier in the Eastern semis in an epic seven-game series that saw him outscore Paul Pierce 45-41 in Game 7 in Boston.
James, despite some early missed layups, took over the game Thursday from the start. He scored 11 in the second quarter and keyed a 12-0 run before halftime that turned a four-point hole into a 56-48 Cleveland lead at the half.
“I wanted to be aggressive, I love road games in the playoffs,” James added. “I get up for those games even more than the home games. I love the adversity that comes with it. I love going against the opposing fans, the opposing team and everything that comes with it so for me it was my approach and even though I missed some very makeable layups early, I just think my aggressiveness is starting to hit home for our team and they’re just following my lead after that.”
|Brad Stevens thinks Celtics ‘didn’t play with any poise’ and Evan Turner thinks that’s ‘a little strong’||at 1:51 am ET|
But his team, most of which is experiencing the playoffs for the first time, was not up to the task at big moments Thursday night.
As a result, the Celtics fell in an 0-3 hole with a 103-95 loss to LeBron James and the Cavaliers. The Celtics committed 15 turnovers. They also had key meltdowns at the end of each half that proved deadly. They allowed the Cavaliers to close the first half with a 12-0 run to take a 56-48 lead. And they allowed the Cavaliers off the hook when they drew to within three on an Evan Turner three with 2:45 left. The Cavs closed the game with a 10-3 run.
“The bottom line tonight was we didn’t play with any poise,” Stevens said. “I don’t know if it was the terrific environment in there, if we were just ‘ I don’t know if it was down 0-2, I don’t know what they deal was, but I thought they really played with poise and in control; we did not. And I thought that was the biggest difference in the game. Our effort was great, we played really hard, but we’ve got to play better. We’ve got to play better. And we’ve said it over and over. It’s an eight-point game at the end of the day, and there’s so many possessions that we threw away.”
But Turner, whom Stevens praised, for playing a great game, disagreed with Stevens’ assessment.
“He said our poise wasn’t good. I think that’s a little strong because we were on the bench encouraging each other. I think we bounced back, I don’t know in regards to poise but I think we were resilient. We had a lot of comebacks and we had a lot of runs and we had a lot of tough runs that led to success for them but you know, to be down three with a minute or two minutes left, it’s somewhat great, but obviously, I don’t think we did a great job to fully help us get over the hump.
“It’s definitely frustrating. It’s definitely tough, especially being out there, we’re battling back and every time we’re coming close they get a big offensive rebound for a big three. Obviously that’s one of the reasons why it was tough today but to really harp on those key moments, we’ve done a lot more stuff in order to be behind and obviously that’s just the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Tristan Thompson’s really talented at what he does, he’s been doing it all season, but I think we have a lot of other things we need to do as well, but that’s definitely something that sends us overboard I would say.” Read the rest of this entry »
|5 things we learned as LeBron James, Cavaliers push Celtics to brink||04.23.15 at 9:40 pm ET|
Different building, same script.
Trailing by three late in the fourth quarter, the Celtics had a chance to tie Game 3 at home, but failed to corral an offensive rebound, and Kevin Love made them pay with a wide-open 3-pointer with 2:13 remaining. And once again, the C’s submitted an inspired effort, but had no answer for LeBron James, who amassed 31 points and 11 rebounds in a 103-95 victory that gave his Cavaliers a 3-0 series lead.
The Celtics‘ last opportunity to avoid a sweep comes in Game 4 at the Garden on Sunday afternoon.
On Thursday, Evan Turner enjoyed his best game of the series, collecting 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, but failed to match a dominant performance by the game’s greatest active player. Jae Crowder added 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists off the bench, and Avery Bradley scored 18, albeit on 18 shots. Jared Sullinger (10 points, 8 rebounds) was the only other Celtic in double figures. After scoring 22 points in each of his first two playoff appearances, Isaiah Thomas finished with only five points on 2-of-9 shooting.
For a complete box score, click here.
In the first 1:18, LeBron James got to the rim with ease on back-to-back possessions, giving the Cavaliers an early 4-0 lead. After an uncontested 3-pointer from Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov beat Tyler Zeller on the block twice in a row — dunking over the C’s center and driving around him for an uncontested layup. A third drive to the basket delivered Cleveland a 15-10 lead and forced the first Celtics timeout.
|Evan Turner wasn’t too thrilled with some ‘crazy’ calls that ‘didn’t make any sense’||04.22.15 at 12:31 am ET|
But the Celtics guard thought he and his teammates could’ve had a much better chance to pull the upset if a couple of calls had gone Boston’s way.
The first one was a foul called by official Bennett Salvatore on Avery Bradley with 3:08 left. As the shot clock was expiring, Irving was spinning around near the baseline and was actually behind the backboard when he unloaded a desperation shot and fell to the floor.
Salvatore blew his whistle and bailed out Irving and the Cavs. Instead of getting the ball back down just four, 91-87, the Celtics watched as Irving made both from the charity stripe and bumped their lead back up to six, 93-87.
“Avery’s [got position there]. To call a foul right there and to call a foul when a guy’s behind the backboard in that type of possession, it should never be called,” Turner said. “It wasn’t a playable shot. It wasn’t a makable shot. It wasn’t anything. That was crazy call.”
Then, with the game already decided, Irving was called for a traveling violation, the only one of the game, with 16.6 seconds left. Turner found that quite odd as well.
“And then at the game, you call a travel when he’s been [carrying] it the same way the whole time, that’s the only tough part about today. That really didn’t make any sense,” Turner said.
But then Turner, who started and had nine points and a team-high 12 rebounds, turned the focus back on the Celtics, down 0-2.
“You just can’t really worry about it,” Turner said. “You try to do the right thing. The refs are trying their hardest. They can’t see everything. You just try to play hard. The one behind the backboard, in the corner. That was a crazy call, a game-changer down the stretch.
“They’re playing very great. Obviously, Kyrie definitely gifted offensively. When he starts off like that, sometimes you have to worry about him to a certain extent. LeBron tonight kind of kicked in his scoring late and you really have to play close attention to him. Mozgov did a great job as well. It’s definitely tough.”
|Even down 2-0, Brad Stevens very confident in his Celtics: ‘We just have to be a little bit tighter’||04.21.15 at 11:28 pm ET|
Brad Stevens sounded an cautious yet optimistic tone Tuesday night after his team dropped a 99-91 decision to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena that put his Celtics in a 2-0 series hold heading back to Boston for Game 3 Thursday night.
“We have another game to play,” Stevens said. “We have another game to prepare for. We have to prepare to the best of our ability. We’ve been of a collective mindset of the only day that matters is today and you move on to what’s next. I know that gets really old to hear but I think it’s the only way to live and certainly the only way to live in this business and it allows you to keep your focus on the task at hand.”
For the second straight game, the Celtics managed to outscore the Cavaliers after one quarter, leading 16-8 at one point. They were hanging tough heading into halftime in both games. Tuesday, they trailed by just one, 51-50, at the break. But in each of the first two games, Boston has laid a collective egg in the third quarter. Tuesday, they were outscored 17-4 out of the halftime break. The Celtics battled back but could never completely climb out of the hole.
“They came out both times very good but we were very poor at the start of the third,” Stevens said. “Both times I thought we were slow coming out of the gates for whatever reason. Again, they’re going to have their runs but their runs can’t become 9-0, 11-0, 13-0 or whatever it is. We’ve got to stop them at five or six and make it a 5-2 run or a 7-4 run. Easier said than done. Everybody glorifies the guy who makes the last-second shot. But the guy who can stop a run, that’s big-time toughness. We’ve got to be able to do that a little bit better and we’ve got guys in our room capable of doing that.
“Nobody has ever played a perfect basketball game, right? But you’re on a quest to play perfect in what you can control. We were good but we weren’t near good enough. But we did play better in a lot of ways. This team will compete and I feel pretty comfortable saying we’ll compete. We just have to be a little bit tighter. And that’s because of the game demands that and it’s also because our opponent is awfully good.”
The Celtics were downright dominant on the offensive glass in the first half, holding a 7-1 edge and outscoring Cleveland 12-2 in second chance points. But that changed drastically in the second half, as the Cavs outscored the Celtics 16-4 in second chance points and 9-4 on the offensive glass.
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