The Celtics trailed up to 21 points in the first half before a late rally failed in the fourth quarter, as the Visitors lost their second straight game to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Jayson Tatum finished with a high 29 points while Jaylen Brown added 25 points, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a lousy offensive start for Boston (38 points in the first half) which left the visitors with a too big hill to climb last 24 mins.
Colin Sexton tallied 29 points for the team, while Darius Garland added 25 points and six assists to bring Boston back to the 0.500 mark in 40 games this season.
Four observations of the loss of Boston:
Robert Williams returned to the game after a frightening fall in the second half: The third-year center achieved his second straight double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds, but a clumsy fall on an alley-oop attempt led to what appeared to be a knee injury for the tall man. Williams initially tried to play despite the pain, but was replaced shortly by Boston after attempting free throws once he was called on the attempt. The big man was the only bright spot on the Boston bench Wednesday night, the only reserve to score in double digits for the second game in a row. Williams returned to the game in the final four minutes after returning from a trip to the locker room with coaches, but didn’t have much of an impact on the home stretch.
The Celtics’ offense was putrid in the first half: The Celtics came out flat from the opening point in this one on the second half of a back-to-back against one of the worst defenses in the NBA. Without playmaker Kemba Walker, the visitors collected 38 points in the first half, shooting just 37% from the field and 20% from 3 points. Boston’s poor shot was compounded by 12 turnovers in the first 24 minutes, nine of those errors coming from Boston’s starting five. With no player scoring in double digits early on, Boston dug a 21-point hole that he spent the entire second half trying to dig.
Boston continues to have issues with quick guards: Defense has been a soft spot for the Celtics throughout the year, but a lack of reliable defenders beyond Marcus Smart in the backcourt has revealed against a few high-energy guards in Cleveland. Darius Garland and Colin Sexton led the Cavs in scoring as a host of Celtics defensemen (Jeff Teague, Payton Pritchard, Carsen Edwards, Javonte Green) had the chance to slow them down with limited success. In the end, Brad Stevens opted for more zonal defense in the second half which limited the slowdowns in points but ultimately it was too little too late for a Celtics defense that fell into the bottom third of the NBA.
Everyone has their chance except Aaron Nesmith: With Kemba Walker (rest) and Tristan Thompson (NBA safety protocols) out of the lineup, Brad Stevens looked from afar for a spark on his bench after a lackluster start from his starters. In the end, every healthy member of the 15-player roster had a chance, except for No. 14 pick Aaron Nesmith. The rookie only played one game in March after being a regular contributor to the rotation in February, but Stevens opted for other alternatives on his bench in this one. The Boston head coach said Nesmith will continue to have opportunities as the season progresses, but the Celtics will drop back down to 0.500.