At this point I think it's safe to say that the Cleveland Cavaliers have turned a bit of a corner. They have won three straight games and are playing with a sense of purpose. Plus, the effort is coming from both ends of the floor. Ultimately, their balanced attack proved to be too much for a very solid Boston Celtics team and the Cavs won by a final score of 89-77.
The first half was a relatively strong one. The Cavs starters did a good job at forcing the Celtics to take jumpers and most of their three point attempts were contested ones. On the other end, the Cavs played inside - out early on, primarily with Kevin Love. Unfortunately they were unable to get a lot of good open looks to go down, but the movement was there and the looks were the right kind.
Only thing that really stood out to me as a glaring flaw was the play of Anderson Varejao. Varejao has exceeded a lot of my admittedly low expectations this season and has been better on defense than I anticipated. That being said, his defense in the first half was incredibly porous. He surrendered a lot of blow by to David Lee and others. There was a notable possession where he sagged off of Lee to play the cut to the basket. The Celtics didn't attack him playing that way by taking the open jumper, Lee was simply given the pass and allowed an open drive right past the sagging Varejao. The Celtics do have mobile bigs so it isn't an ideal matchup for him, but it was a very rough first half.
The third quarter was ultimately where the game was decided. The Cavs maintained their defensive intensity and the contested shots that Boston hit in the first half stopped going down. The Celtics missed a few open shots as well as their offense stalled out, but overall the disruptive defense prevented them from ever getting into a rhythm as the Cavs outscored the Celtics by fourteen points in the third. The lead was one that would not be relinquished as Kevin Love and LeBron James took turns dealing kill shots to any attempt at a Celtics comeback.
Thoughts from the game:
- I had the pleasure of being stuck with the Celtics broadcast tonight. Words cannot describe how bad Tommy Heinsohn is. I've thought it was funny in stretches and clips in the past, but it's unbearable. I get when people can't deal with Austin Carr, but this just feels like a different brand.
- While I'm sitting on this high horse, this is why I could understand why Jahlil Okafor would get into a fight:
Celtics fan sitting behind press tables as Love works in the post: "Rip his arm out of socket! Who cares? Rip it out!"— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) December 16, 2015
There's just no defending how stupid people can be at times. People like this exist everywhere, just a casual reminder to not be that person
- I loved (sorry) seeing the Cavs get Love so involved early on. There's not a lot of people in the league capable of guarding him in the post and Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger are certainly not on that list of defenders. The early touches allowed him to play inside - outside and resulted in a lot of good looks for the Cavs. They could have done a better job at getting more of those touches as the game went on, but it still was really good to see.
- Iman Shumpert pulling his groin is just so disappointing. He looked very good again tonight, but unfortunately the injury bug seems to be something he just can't shake. Hopefully it's nothing serious and precautionary as the Cavs had a comfortable lead late in this one.
- The Cavs have LeBron and the Celtics don't. It's simple, but it really captures a lot of what happened tonight. He's very good and Boston just had no answer for containing either LeBron or Love.
- Matthew Dellavedova and the Cavs in general did a very good job of containing Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is a very talented scorer and was held to just six shots in the first half. After a half of not getting a lot of good opportunities, he began to press and force the issue which resulted in a poor night from the field from him. It was an impressive defensive showing on the Celtics main offensive threat.
- I haven't seen a lot of people talk about it this season, but Blatt's rotation management has been very good this season in my eyes. Sometimes he experiments with some... unconventional lineups, but overall those experiments have proved to be fruitful. Considering the constant changes in availability to the roster, the work he's done has been very good and relatively unheralded.