Following Game 3, the Boston Celtics face a key question: Can they be humbled by getting absolutely waxed or will it define them for the remainder of the playoffs?
The Boston Celtics could not have played much worse on Saturday night. After taking the first two games in Boston, an unrecognizable Celtics team took the court after three days off.
There was no energy. No passion. No fight. Nothing. Right from the tip, the Celtics looked like they didn’t care. They couldn’t have been tired. Cleveland just punched them in the mouth and the C’s never got up.
The Celtics looked like world beaters in Games 1 and 2. It took about 5 minutes to give the pivotal Game 3 to the Cavaliers. The second half had about as much intensity as a preseason game in Spain. Guerschon Yabusele played in the first quarter. Is there any better equivalent to waving the white flag than playing Yabusele in the first quarter?
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And it wasn’t even like the Cavs made huge changes. They didn’t take a win from the Celtics, it was handed to them. Three-point shooters were allowed wide open look after wide open look. The Cavs missed plenty of wide open threes in Boston, but they must have gotten 15 more to try in Game 3.
LeBron James didn’t need to do anything special to win. For some reason, he was double teamed on non post-ups in the paint, allowing several wide open dunks. The Celtics were going under on screens, leading to open threes or turbo boosts on drives. I don’t know why the intensity of defense suddenly vanished when it came to guarding LeBron.
The offense was even worse. I’ll give some credit to the Cavs, they played better defense. But in no way did they take away what the Celtics wanted to do over a long stretch of time. They didn’t force Marcus Smart to take 9 shots, none of them good. No one forced Al Horford to take just 4 shots and disappear on the offensive end. It was all on him.
The Celtics made 6 threes. That’s an automatic loss. The starters attempted just 13 threes. That isn’t the recipe for success. The C’s averaged 10.5 threes and 24 attempts in the two wins. They were either scared or not confident on offense. The Cavs didn’t do anything different.
It’s time to move on
If I were Boston, I want to play Game 4 as quickly as possible. Game 3 can’t linger on like a bad dream. The Cavs can’t just take advantage of the Celtics to come back and take the series. They at least have to earn it. At least make James play perfectly and his supporting cast play lights out again.
J.R. Smith made a few threes, Kyle Korver got hot in garbage time, James was no better than he usually is. And what did the Celtics do? They got outhustled. Outplayed in their most important category. Take it from Brad Stevens himself.
A lot of things have to change, but the good news is the Celtics know what they have to do. Game 1 and Game 2 were not flukes. Game 3 should be the exception. Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, is this how the season ends? Will one loss destroy months of hard work?
If what we’ve seen in the last few weeks is any indication, the Boston Celtics will bounce back. A discouraging loss doesn’t mean the sky is falling. It sucks now and it would suck even more if the Celtics lose Game 4. However, for better or for worse, I trust the Celtics to bounce back. All playoffs, we expected the worst and were pleasantly surprised by the result.
Game 3 is the first reason to doubt the Celtics in the playoffs, if it’s even a reason at all. Let’s hope Game 4 will be a reason to forget one bad performance.