On an afternoon that was slated to be a five-hour long celebration of the success of Paul Pierce and the Celtics’ past, the Celtics’ present laid an egg.
The current Celtics got their doors blown off by LeBron James and the new-look Cavs Sunday at TD Garden, losing 121-99 as the reigning Eastern Conference champs made it clear that the Celtics will have their work cut out for them if they desire to advance to the NBA Finals this spring.
Brad Stevens’ team looked completely dumbfounded by the Cavs’ fresh offense, as LeBron got all of his new teammates involved. George Hill, Cleveland’s replacement at point guard for the jettisoned Isaiah Thomas, pumped in 12 points, Jordan Clarkson tallied 17 points off the bench, and Rodney Hood finished with 15.
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“They’ve got a great player [in LeBron James] and have surrounded him with a bunch of great shooters,” Stevens said of the Cavs’ new group. “They dominated the game in all areas. There wasn’t just one area. They dominated.”
The 64 points the Celtics allowed in the first half were the most they’ve given up before halftime all season long.
The C’s had talked about how they wanted to get into the paint early and often against the Cavs defense early in the game but Boston wound up jacking up 38 3-pointers in the contest, hitting only 10.
Terry Rozier led the C’s with 21 points of the bench while Kyrie Irving finished with 18. The game began with promise for Boston as in the first quarter with Irving guarding him, LeBron threw up a brick on one end – and immediately on the other end, Irving drilled a step-back jumper in his former teammate’s face.
It was all downhill from there, however, as the Celtics were outscored 33-20 in the second quarter.
The Celtics will now have two days off before facing Doc Rivers, who was in the house Sunday for the Paul Pierce retirement ceremony, and the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night. The Valentine’s Day tilt will be the Celtics’ final game before the NBA All-Star break in LA.
The Celtics (40-18) have now lost two games in a row and are looking up at Toronto (39-16) for the No. 1 seed in the East. The Cavs (33-22) are 5.5 games behind the Celtics.