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Takeaways from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 117-113 loss to the Boston Celtics

After a competitive first half, the Cavs crumbled in the third quarter.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers could not keep their winning ways going against the Boston Celtics, falling 117-113 at TD Garden. The Cavs and Celtics fought hard in the first half, but Boston exploded for 41 points in the third quarter and outscored Cleveland by 15.

Bad night for the bench

The Cavs bench unit was, in a word, brutal. Caris LeVert, Dean Wade, Rucky Rubio, and Cedi Osman combined for 14 points, made one three-pointer, and were mostly invisible aside from a late burst from LeVert. The lack of shooting on the roster right now is glaring, and the Cavs are continually too reliant on Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell to take all of the shots from deep. Wade, who hit a hot streak and may have impacted the Cavs’ decision to stand pat at the deadline, has hit two three-pointers since February 8. He was 0-2 tonight and passed up a few open looks. Osman only played five minutes and did not attempt a shot. LeVert was 0-3 from deep but did add 10 points.

It does not help when Boston has Jayson Tatum (41 points) just doing this.

Finding offense

Speaking of shooting, the Cavs really do not have much of it outside of Garland and Mitchell. If Isaac Okoro, Wade, Rubio, and Caris are not going to take threes, then the Cavs need to find it from somewhere else. Somebody dust off Dylan Windler and Danny Green to help provide some outside scoring punch. The Cavs shot 31% (10/32) from deep compared to the Celtics’ 50% (16/32). Even the threat of shooting is enough sometimes. But the Cavs lack outside threats sans the backcourt.

Evan Mobley has been on an offensive flurry of late, showing off some post moves, a pull-up game, and shooting range to look like the scary alien the Cavs envisioned. But in the second half, the Cavs abandoned feeding Mobley and went back to the tried and true method of running everything through the backcourt instead. Mitchell came up gimpy in the third, Garland put too much dip on his chip several times, and Boston clamped down in the paint to force them to take jumpers. Granted, the Celtics have a myriad of good defenders to throw at anybody, but Cleveland seemed to lack creativity on the offensive end in the third quarter. When the going got tough, the offense narrowed when it should have expanded.

Also, that backcourt is really good

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Mitchell and Garland, at their best, are incredibly difficult to defend. They both create rim pressure, have excellent handles to swerve through defenders, and are potent from deep. In a perfect world, though, the Cavs would not need them both to play 40+ minutes each to stay within striking distance. Yet, Mitchell still had a cool 44 points and Garland added 29 and nine assists. But again, the Cavs’ reliance on them is going to get them in trouble come playoff time against teams with the personnel to bottle things up.

What happened to Jarrett Allen?

That was the most invisible game Allen has played in quite some time. The counting stats were weak (5 points, 7 rebounds, and a assist), but he played very passively all night. The Cavs were outrebounded by Boston, and Al Horford has 23 points and 11 boards on 6-8 shooting from outside. The Celtics will almost assuredly never lose a game if Horford is that effective at shooting the basketball.

Next Up: The Cavaliers will welcome the Detroit Pistons to town on March 4 before a rematch at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse against the Celtics on March 6.