BOSTON — As good as Boston was shooting the ball on Wednesday night against the Pistons, they were just as bad Friday night against the Cavaliers – at least once the second half started.
And that would be all the Cavs needed, as they took care of the undermanned Celtics, 97-91.
Without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the lineup, both out with ankle issues, it was up to role players and reserves to carry the load. They did a commendable job for most of the night, but foul trouble plagued Boston throughout.
Jeff Green (23 points, nine rebounds) picked up two early fouls in the game that forced him to hit the bench for much of the first half. It was the same story for Avery Bradley.
Shavlik Randolph was the team’s spark plug in that first half, scoring 13 points and grabbing five rebounds. But fouls caught up to him, too, as he fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Bradley continued to struggle from the field, scoring 10 points on 3-12 shooting, but once again brought it on the defensive end. Bradley and the C’s limited Cavs guard Kyrie Irving to just 11 points on 4-20 shooting.
But Bradley went to the locker room with 3:18 remaining in the 4th quarter with a bruised left collarbone. The main reason is unclear at this point, but he took a couple hard screens throughout the game, especially late. Irving made it count, too, hitting a short fadeaway jumper to give Cleveland a 95-87 lead they wouldn’t give up, just as Bradley returned to the bench.
Although the game was tied at 52 coming out of half, the C’s shot just 6-22 from the field in the third quarter, and trailed 74-68 heading to the fourth.
Tristan Thompson led the Cavs with 29 points and 17 rebounds. The Cavs won the points in the paint battle, 52-38.
What they’ll be saying:This was a game that the Celtics should have won, even without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. You hate to blame fouls on a loss, but foul trouble plagues the C’s throughout this one. If they had Jeff Green and Avery Bradley for more of the game, there’s a good chance Boston pulls ahead earlier in the game and holds on. Thompsen’s stat line of 29 points and 17 rebounds is glaring, but being defended by Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph for most the game, is understandable. With Garnett hopefully due back by Sunday, the C’s expect games like the one Thompsen had to become few and far between.