The Boston Celtics were in big trouble heading into their Wednesday night game with the Cleveland Cavaliers. An 0-3 road trip had dropped the Celtics back down to .500 at 12-12 and they were coming off probably their worst loss of the year in Chicago on Tuesday. The Celtics answered the bell on Wednesday with a 103-91 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Paul Pierce carried the load for Boston, pouring in 40 points to go with eight rebounds and eight assists. Meanwhile Kyrie Irving put in 22 for the Cavs, who were without rebound machine Anderson Varajao who missed the game with a bruised knee. The Celtics opened a 20 point third quarter lead before almost letting it slip away, allowing Cleveland to rip off a 17-0 run at the end of third and begging of the fourth quarter to get back within three. However the Celtics then mounted a 10-0 run of their own and Cleveland didn't threaten again.
Celtics101 went mute for a couple days because Boston was so bad on that road trip. They were so bad there was literally nothing that could be said. There wasn't any one thing they did particularly badly. There also wasn't anything that they did well. They were making shots, they got some defensive stops, but they didn't play anything remotely resembling winning basketball. The final game in Chicago was painful to watch. They could have lost to an empty gym. It was pathetic. Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and Kevin Garnett did all they could. But the team as a whole played utterly awful.
Coming off easily their worst loss of the year the coach Doc Rivers was searching for answers. The talent is there on this team, but they simply were not playing good basketball. So Doc rocked the boat. He put Jason Collins in the starting lineup, moving Kevin Garnett to power forward and sending Brandon Bass the the bench. He also put Jason Terry in the starting lineup replacing Courtney Lee. It worked. Both Terry and Lee played better than they had at any point on the road trip. Meanwhile Collins made a major impact. The interior defense was miles better with Collins and KG manning the lane. Previously, with KG and Bass as the starters Chris Wilcox had been coming off the bench replacing KG at the 5 minute mark of each quarter. However, for all the things Wilcox does well, he was killing the Celtics with repeated defensive breakdowns. The Celtics D always drops off a bit when "The Big Ticket" heads to the bench, but with the switch from KG to Wilcox it was utterly disintegrating. Getting Collins, who still plays excellent defense even at this late stage in his career, in there means that Bass is now the first big off the bench. Bass isn't a great defender, but he is playing much better than Wilcox.
Again the Celtics defense was way better against Cleveland. Early on the Cavs stayed in it thanks to Dion Waiters and Alonzo Gee just knocking down some very difficult shots. Eventually those tough jumpers stopped falling and Boston pulled away in the third quarter, building a 20 point lead with 80-60 to go in the frame. Then they subbed and the offense completely shut off. The Celtics completely lost their aggressiveness allowing Irving to get going, putting on a 17-0 to pull back within three. However the Celtics woke up in time. A couple of aggressive moves by Terry, Rondo and Pierce put Boston back up by 10 with 4:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Cavs never got close again.
What It Means
Not a lot. Paul Pierce dropped 40 and the Celtics just hung on to beat the five win Cleveland Cavaliers who were missing one of their best players. But honestly the Celtics just needed a win. Boston has shown that they can lose to anyone when they don't play the right way. Someone had to answer the bell and the Celtic lifer Pierce did it. That is why he is the captain.
The Celtics get Thursday off then once again try to build some momentum when the Milwaukee Bucks make their second visit to Boston on Friday. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. from TD Garden.
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