IN A NUTSHELL
Unless it’s either the late 80s/early 90s or LeBron James is on the roster, the Cleveland Cavaliers play NBA basketball at a level subpar enough to offend the blind. (Sometimes the whole offend-the-blind thing was the case even while LeBron was there, in both stints.) Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics have a bad habit of playing down to poor competition, and Kyrie Irving was sitting out with “flu-like symptoms” (often NBA code for “Coach, I’m so goddamn hung over,” but also sometimes…y’know, flu symptoms). So maybe this would be the trap game I’d expected to come in Atlanta.
Definitely looked that way for a bit. Cleveland’s blend of prospects and overpaid vets drew first blood with strong three-point shooting, particularly from sophomore Cedi Osman, and the Celtics didn’t offer much resistance on D at first. But Terry Rozier III, in the 1-spot for Kyrie, was in no mood to lose at home. He caught fire early and maintained that pace through the first half while also scoring key insurance buckets late in the game, ending the night with 26 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal. Between the man with the spaghetti sandwich and the continuing resurgence of Jaylen Brown as a leading reserve, the Cs ultimately walloped the Cavs 123-103.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Boston scored 64 points in the paint, a mark of how incredibly weak Cleveland is on interior defense. Most of the game’s best qualities for the Celtics were due to individual players, so let’s go point-by-point:
- Rozier was the unquestioned star of the show tonight, clicking on all cylinders of his offensive game. Yet didn’t ever particularly seem to be balling out at the expense of anyone else and had no issues with involving others on the floor. I know he’s become contentious to discuss given the uncertainties of his future with the team, but the Celtics definitely needed his buckets to seal that victory. Insisting otherwise would be ridiculous.
- Brown excelled as sixth man on both ends of the floor, amassing 23 points, 6 boards, a steal and a +17, eclipsed only by…Brad Wanamaker’s +24. That is not a sentence one expects to write.
- Wanamaker played a significant role in jerking the Celtics to life during Q2 when Cleveland still held the lead. The University of Pittsburgh star and Euroleague vet finished with just 11-2-3 plus a block—not exactly earth-shaking, but he arguably deserves a lot of the credit for wresting the game’s momentum from Cleveland’s turnover-prone hands.
- Jayson Tatum started a bit sluggish but rounded into form when it counted, ending up with 17-2-3 and 3 steals.
- Gordon Hayward also acquitted himself quite well; this was one of his better recent games (18 points, 5 boards, a dime and 2 steals).
- ALSO, TIMELORD. GOOD TO SEE YOU BIG FELLA.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Both teams sucked like a Dyson vacuum on a syringe full of ketamine during the first quarter of the game overall. It was a chore to watch. I’d be lying if I didn’t take a few moments to pay more attention to the fizzing bubbles in my seltzer than the game itself.
When both teams weren’t sucking during that stretch and Scary Terry wasn’t going to work, Cavs youngsters Osman and Ante Zizic (we hardly knew u pally) were embarrassing their Celtics defenders, and that’s never fun to see.
GREEN FIRE HIGHLIGHTS
Slick drive-and-kick from Rozier to Jaylen behind the arc for the trey:
TATUM STEAL, TATUM SMASH:
T I M E L O R D: