There's something about quarters with Cleveland Cavaliers team. They do well in some, and they don't too well in others. If there's one thing that's consistent about these quarters -- the Cavs never seem to play well in all of them in the same game.
Against the Boston Celtics in the first of the Cavs' four-game home stand, the quarters theme was very present for the Cavs tonight. They played really well in some and not so well in others, and unfortunately for the Cavs, their not so good quarters overshadowed their good quarters, with Celtics guard Avery Bradley putting the icing on the cake in tonight's game, hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Cavs a 104-103 loss.
The Cavs get started very early, leading off the game with 15-2 in the first three-and-a-half minutes of the first quarter. LeBron James was attacking, J.R. Smith was connecting from behind the arc and Kevin Love was getting involved, even capping the run off with a two-handed dunk after spin move in the post. Whether it was their legs being refreshed from the day off in between games or if they were looking to send an early message after a disappointing loss in Charlotte, the Cavs strong start gave off an indication that would be in control of this game from start to finish.
Yet, as the old saying goes, "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Particularly to start the third quarter, where the Celtics began with a 9-0 run right out of halftime, with Avery Bradley's three giving the Celtics their first lead of the game less than two minutes into the third quarter.
The third quarter has been brutal to the Cavs of late, where they've have been completed dominated by their opponents in their past two games. They were out-scored by 15 against the Indiana Pacers on Monday, and then by 16 to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. Although they were able to get an overtime win against the Pacers, the third quarter did play a big factor in the Cavs loss to the Hornets, where the Cavs held a nine-point halftime lead.
The good news from this game's third quarter is that the Cavs were able to fight back after that early run from Celtics, eventually taking the lead back taking an eight-point lead into halftime. This also marked the first time in their past three games that they out-scored their opponent.
Unfortunately, the bad news might outweigh what positive came from the third quarter, when Love went down holding his left thigh. After sitting considerable on the ground after going down, Love was able to walk to the bench, and later to the locker room, under his own power, where he would remain for the rest of the game.
In the fourth quarter, it was much of what the Cavs' recent third quarters had looked like. Again the Celtics started off to a hot start, yet this time the Cavs weren't able to match Boston, and turning a game that was in appeared to be steadily in the Cavs hands at multiple times into a few late game decisions costing the Cavs, leading to Bradley's buzzer beating three at the buzzer.
Part of this second half problems can be correlated to the change in the offensive philosophy from the first half. The ball moves less and sticks in either LeBron James' or Kyrie Irving's hands late in the game. There was plenty of the same tonight, with LeBron (30 points on 9-of-23 shooting) and Irving (17 points on 7-of-15 shooting) were taking turns taking over the offense, with a little bit of Smith sprinkled in, and ultimately it led to a very sluggish offense at times in the second half.
Ultimately, these consistency issues are starting to become more of an issue than a simple blip on the radar. The issue for them had been that it won't cost them against teams in the East, but will against the more elite teams in the league. Yet this was the second straight game they've lost to an East opponent because of these issues.