BOSTON — Bloodbath. Trainwreck. Disaster.
The english language cannot possibly hold enough words to adequately describe the failure of the Celtics in Game 2 Friday evening.
They started Gerald Green and looked like they may have figured out to stay with Cleveland.
For about five minutes.
Cleveland went on to spend the rest of the game dismantling the Celtics’ core identity as they crushed Boston 130-86. It was the worst loss in a conference finals game in Celtics history. It was the worst loss in the Garden in Celtics franchise history. The Cavs’ 72-31 halftime lead was the biggest in NBA Playoffs history. It was a night that will live in the record books, no matter how much the Celtics will want to forget.
This was the ultimate destruction of the Celtics and the epitome of just how great this Cleveland team can be. Their weaknesses are so minimal that their strengths erase them.
“Well that’s a huge compliment, but there’s no such thing for us,” LeBron James said when informed Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before the series that Cleveland had a perfect roster. “We don't have a perfect team. But we can make up for mistakes, and we can make up for maybe some deficiencies that we may have because we communicate, we fly around and we sacrifice for one another. That could put us as close to perfection as possible, which you can't ever get to.”
But Cleveland essentially achieved perfection Friday, reaching a lead as big as an unfathomable 50 points and never losing the lead after it was 2-0. They pulled off everything in their playbook on offense, but this series has been defined by the pressure they put on the ball in an effort to take Isaiah Thomas out of the game. CelticsBlog asked LeBron about how the Cavs have suffocated Thomas better than anyone so far these playoffs.
“We do have some great perimeter defenders that take the challenge,” LeBron said. “But we also have great third-line defense as well with our front line, which communicates pick-and-roll coverages or pin-down coverages or whatever coverages and allow the guards to get up into the ball or do what they need to do to be successful versus their guards.”
Stevens saw the life of his team drift into the wind, with each of their missed opportunities coming back to bite them.
“I thought us having those empty offensive possessions where maybe you miss an open shot and they go down and convert or you have an opportunity and you turn it over and they go down and convert, those things were bigger than just the three points they were scoring. I felt like they had a negative impact on kind of our look, and again, credit them.”
Despite the smackdown, this is a loss isolated from other games and the series is only halfway done. While there are few signs of life left in this Celtics season, they still get to at least play two more games.
“Well, they're going to make another adjustment, and we have to be ready for that going into Game 3,” LeBron said to CelticsBlog in his post-game press conference. “We're going to watch film tomorrow and see ways we can be better.”
When Al Horford was called for a defensive three second technical with 6:24 left in the first quarter, the Celtics were still within a point. Three minutes later, the Cavs were capping off a 12-0 run and never looked back. By halftime, the Cavs were up 72-31 and the Celtics were in search mode.
LeBron James had 22 points and six assists in the first half, with an unfathomable +41 differential. Isaiah Thomas missed the second half with a strained right hip, but his absence had no say in this game.
The Cavs’ big 3 combined for 74 points, outscoring the Celtics 74-57 in the first three quarters. They reached a peak lead of 50 in a wire-to-wire win. Unlike last game, they never came close to fighting back, continuing to be pummeled by the Cavs bench featuring vets like Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, and Richard Jefferson.
“Those guys were playing the right way up 45 freaking points,” Stevens said. “Tremendous examples for us to learn from. You play the right way all the time. “
The move to start Gerald Green continued to expose the Celtics’ defensive weaknesss against LeBron, which of course starts with the fact that he is a demigod. Celveland targeted Green to drive on in space, finding plenty of looks in the early first quarter to shoot over him or around him.
Boston did not have the physicality to plug the holes and found their shot clanking on a night where Cleveland is red hot. The Cavs went 19-for-39 from deep to the Celtics’ 8-for-27. Cleveland had the type of shooting night Boston needs to even hint at competitiveness in this series.
Brad Stevens sought guidance from a coaching legend after the game, as UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma met him at his office just after the final buzzer.
“We didn't do enough good things to even keep it close. I literally just walked out of my office, and Geno Auriemma was in there,” Stevens said in his post-game press conference. “He wasn't very good at understanding what I was going through. But nonetheless, I picked his brain for as long as I could before I came down here.”
Boston heads to Cleveland for Game 3 on Sunday, with little hope for this series in sight.