Boston (12-10): 128- Cleveland (4-17): 95
Kyrie Irving: 29 PTS 4 REB 4 AST
Gordon Hayward: 14 PTS 4 REB 4 AST
Marcus Smart: 12 PTS 3 REB 7 AST 3 STL
Tristan Thompson: 13 PTS 12 REB 4 AST 1 BLK
Collin Sexton: 15 PTS 4 REB 4 AST
Alec Burks: 15 PTS 6 REB 4 AST 2 STL
The self proclaimed “team to beat in the East” came into the Garden Friday night and promptly got man handled. VFTW was in the building and the Celtics came back home and took care of business after a win in New Orleans. This team has been so bad this season to start and as of now any 2 game winning streak feels like a victory. They started early, getting out to a 13-3 lead right off the bat. The Cavs started the game off 1-7 and the Celtics took advantage by forcing the issue on offense early and often while Cleveland’s offense lagged. The key to this aggression was Kyrie Irving. From the beginning he was cooking as he had 13 points on 5-6 shooting in the first quarter to lead the Celtics. The “F**k you” (sorry, we’re still a PG-13 blog) threes were all over the place as he even pulled one above the break from the leprechaun (33 feet away to be exact).
He puts up these ridiculous shots and I have the utmost confidence that they’re going in, and last night, they did just that. While the Cavs being bad helped a lot (there’s no reason to overcomplicate this analysis), the Celtics did a great job of forcing them into a lot of bad shots, especially from the outside. For a team who shoots a league worst 23.8% from three, keeping them out there was a focus and the Celtics did just that pacing themselves to a 30-26 lead at the end of one.
The second quarter the Cavs were playing pretty well as Tristan Thompson started to get going on the glass. I swear that if you showed somebody that has never watched basketball before tape of Tristan Thompson versus the Celtics, they would think he was the best player the league has ever seen. He continued to run amok down low and finished the first half with 13 points and 12 rebounds. This play on the glass, along with the play of Alec Burks (8 points 2-2 in the second) kept the Cavs alive as they saw things all knotted up at 47 with about 4 minutes left. From there, the Celtics took off, closing the half on a 15-5 run. First, Kyrie buried a three from the top of the key, Hayward got involved with an offensive rebound/bucket, Smart got a steal that led to a dunk, and then Kyrie threaded the needle on a dirty pass to Baynes off of the bounce.
That was one of the smoothest passes I’ve seen live and boy did it get the crowd going. That whole run had the Garden rocking on a Friday in November. After a Baynes alley-oop from Hayward, then a buzzer beater by Marcus Morris from three, the Celtics saw themselves up 62-52 at the break.
For the second half, the goal was simple: Don’t give up the lead and hopefully have the opportunity to get the starters some rest on the first night of a back to back. They did just that as after that run to close the second they didn’t look back. Kyrie continued to impress as he looked like a man who wanted some time off in the fourth. 10 3rd quarter points, including another couple of threes from way downtown spearheaded this effort. He also had a hustle play leaping in and getting a tip in amongst the trees in the paint. Gordon Hayward also contributed 6 in the quarter on a three and an and-1 driving baseline. They outshot Cleveland in the quarter (63.2% to 36.8%) from the floor and had the advantage from three (75% to 16.7%). The lead ballooned to 29 as after a Rozier buzzer beater to end the third the Celtics were in complete control with a 101-72 lead and a win in the bag.
All things considered, there wasn’t much to talk about in the fourth as the two teams basically just ran their respective benches until the final buzzer sounded. To put this in perspective, according to NBA Stats, Semi Ojeleye logged 12:02 minutes in the fourth. This man was working overtime! All joking aside, the main attraction in the fourth quarter was Robert Williams. The mystery man, under the moniker of “TimeLord”, has seen limited run this season but it seems like every time he’s out there he makes you say “Wow”. There were three wow moments from him last night. One was a dunk where it seemed like he was floating, next was one of the most violent goaltends I’ve ever seen, and then the last one was a block where he looked like Phil Dalhausser spiking a volleyball into the sand (look at the video, it’s so nonchalant and scary what he can do in midair).
Other than that, P.J. Dozier made his Celtic debut, scoring 7 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in just 5:47 of play. He’s on a two-way contract and maybe he can show the Celtics something and earn some minutes down the road. All in all, a fun night at the Garden which led to Gino Time as the Celtics reigned victorious taking it home 128-95.
- First and foremost, Kyrie continued to dominate as he shot an efficient 11-15 from the floor and had 29 in 3 quarters. He remains the only constant on this team and his contributions cannot be overstated.
- After a pep talk from Kyrie yesterday, Gordon Hayward continues to return to form. 6-9 from the floor and he looked the most aggressive as we’ve seen so far. Instead of coming off of screens looking to pass, he came off strong and hit a few jumpshots. Another welcomed sight was to see him drive hard to the basket and go up strong. Both of these aspects of his game were so important to him pre-injury and it’s a joy to see them coming back. He’s now posted 12.3/5.0/3.8 on 51.4/33.3/100 shooting in his passed 4 games and I see this trend upwards continuing if he stays aggressive.
- After a great performance in New Orleans, Marcus Smart continued his strong play Friday night. While his numbers don’t jump off of the page he did a bit of everything. He was 5-7 from the field and 2-4 from three for 12 points on top of 7 assists as he contributed in many different ways on offense. The real story, as usual, was his defense. Cavs covered by Smart went a combined 1-12 from the field with 5 turnovers. He continues to give opposing backcourts the blues and he’s been a real difference maker in that starting 5 so far.
- I wrote briefly about Robert Williams earlier in this recap but I can’t help but go back to him. I would love to see him get some more minutes because I for one don’t have any idea what this kid’s ceiling is. The Celtics might not have any clue what they have with Williams either and I think some playing time would help make it clearer. He jumps out of the gym and if he is able to harness that athleticism and learn the schemes, he is going to be a handful for opposing teams.
- Defensively, the Celtics shined once again. Holding the Cavs to 95 points and held them below 40% from the field. When the defense is on point, this team is at their best and after last week’s poor showing on that end, they’ve tightened it up as of late.
Player of the Game: Kyrie Irving
At this point I really might be able to just give Kyrie every single one of these awards. He was a wizard on the court once again and made his presence felt early and often. He’s been automatic from everywhere on the floor and set the tone for the Celtics. His 19 first half points on 7-9 from the floor were what got the Celtics their lead in the first place. An underrated part of Kyrie’s game is his ability on the defensive end. In Cleveland, the word was always that he didn’t play defense and that he was a minus player on that end. In Boston, he’s shown that these presumptions weren’t true and he’s been a pleasant surprise on that end. He’s averaging 1.8 steals per game which ranks 6th in the NBA. His rotations have been on point and his ability to jump passing lanes effectively has been on display all year long. Tonight was no different as he held prized rookie Collin Sexton to 2-7 from the floor. On both ends he dominated and that’s why he receives last night’s player of the game honors.
Back to work tonight 12/1 in Minnesota versus the Timberwolves at 8:00 pm ET.
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