Cavs Down C's in Cleveland
CLEVELAND - The Celtics came into last night's game against the Cavaliers leading the league in defense. They left it shaking their heads.
On a night when most everything was going right for them - at one end of the floor - the Shamrocks couldn't find a way to make 113 points and 57 percent shooting add up to a victory.
``On defense we were god-awful,'' said the educated Doc Rivers after the Celtics' 114-113 loss. ``That's a tough one to swallow.''
``For our standard, they scored too many points,'' said the erudite Ray Allen.
``Our defense (stunk) tonight,'' said Kendrick Perkins.
Allen had 24 points, and Rajon Rondo added 20, and the fact the Celts were that close to a win without defensive leader Kevin Garnett and with Paul Pierce struggling through the flu might tend to soften the blow a bit. But Rivers wasn't having any of that after the Cavs tied a Celtics opponent season-high (Toronto on Jan. 23).
``There's a lot of parts to games that Kevin's not in, and we're still a better defensive team,'' he said. ``And we're not going to use the Garnett thing. We just can't. He's not going to be around for probably a couple more games, and I won't allow them to use it. We're good enough with what we've got to win basketball games.''
Pierce felt ill and had to come out less than five minutes into the game. He sat on the bench the last 7:09 of the quarter, a bucket at his side - just in case. Pierce came back to finish with 19 points in 35 minutes.
Afterward, he didn't really stop to talk, saying only it was the same bug that bit Allen last week and that it first hit him Monday night. Pierce appeared fine at yesterday morning's shootaround, but his condition had worsened when he came back to the arena.
``He was sick,'' said Rivers. ``He didn't feel great. But I thought he played great. Obviously now we're concerned about (tonight's game against the Clippers) with him. That's going to be a tough one for him, as well.''
Last night was tough enough for the Celts. With Tony Allen digging in during the second half, LeBron James had just 12 of his 33 points after the break on 4-of-11 shooting with four turnovers (he still finished with nine rebounds and 12 assists). But even the Cavaliers' misses weren't such a local concern. They pulled in a whopping 17 offense rebounds - part of a 39-29 overall edge on the boards.
And while both teams turned the ball over 19 times, the Cavs turned the Celtics largesse into 27 points, while the Bostonians extracted 25. It turned out to be a significant difference when the Celtics were failing to get over the hump in the waning moments.
Down by two with 42 seconds left, the Celts got James to miss, but neither Ray Allen nor Rondo could secure the long rebound that danced off their hands, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas pretty much iced it with two free throws at 16.6.
``I think it was the worst defense we've played all year, 1 through 5. We gave up 114 points in four quarters and no overtime,'' said Perkins. ``That ain't us. It just felt like we weren't there. Our rotations weren't there. They got a lot of open looks. They had easy baskets.
``That ain't Celtic basketball. That ain't what we do.''
On a night when the teams needed just 5 1/2 minutes to beat the combined score of the Super Bowl, it was.
``I think both teams gave up some plays that they don't want to see happen again,'' said James after the Cavs had beaten the Celts for the second time in three meetings (they're 2-0 when he plays).