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Celtics fall to Cavaliers 102-95

Boston’s preseason record now drops to 1-2.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night for the third game of their preseason slate, in what was an ugly performance from Brad Stevens’ squad. The Cavaliers would ultimately come away with a 102-95 win.

This was the Celtics first opportunity to face a big starting lineup, with Kevin Love guarding Jaylen Brown to begin the game, and Gordon Hayward matching up against Love on the defensive end. Boston struggled off the bat, as Cleveland jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead.

The Celtics had a rather ugly first quarter on the offensive end, shooting 30% from the floor. Despite a messy performance in the early going, Boston did do a nice job of getting the ball to Al Horford early in a few possessions, which opened up the floor against the Cavaliers lineup. With swift off-ball movement, Horford’s court vision normally allows him to find the open man, which he did a few times early in the first quarter. Other than that, there weren’t many bright spots from the Celtics in the first frame.

Their woes didn’t vanish with the quarter change, as Boston continued to struggle finding any flow on offense. They didn’t look too sharp on the defensive end either. The Celtics pick and roll rotations looked slow, which Cleveland took advantage of. The numbers from the first half were not pretty. Boston was 0/12 from deep, shot 38.5% from the floor, and committed 16 fouls.

On a positive note, Hayward continues to look more and more comfortable as the preseason rolls on. There were multiple instances of the 28-year-old cutting to the hoop and drawing contact. This sort of thing will take time, but it’s progress nonetheless. Hayward played a game-high 15 minutes during the game’s first 20 minutes, including some time as a primary ball-handler with a lineup of Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye, and Aron Baynes (another example of Brad Stevens mixing and matching tonight). He would not see any second half action and finished the night with 7 points on 2/6 shooting.

B.W.A. (Baynes, Morris, Yabusele, Smart, and Rozier) came out to start the second frame, attempting to gain some ground after Boston’s ugly first half. Despite an overall poor performance from the Celtics, Baynes continued to have a strong impact on the defensive end, especially early in the third quarter. He was sharp on multiple switches and was able to draw an offensive foul. It’s been said numerous times, but Baynes’ defensive presence is going to be so important for this team down the stretch, specifically against bigger lineups. On a night where the Celtics defense was average to below-average, Baynes was solid.

The end of the bench would take this one home with a late fourth quarter lineup of Robert Williams, Jeff Roberson, Nick King, Guerschon Yabusele, and Walt Lemon Jr. This group was able to cut the Cleveland lead down single digits, but couldn’t come all the way back.

Marcus Smart played a game-high 25 minutes of action, finishing with 15 points to lead the scoring for Boston. Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown were the only other Celtics in double figures with 15 and 10 points, respectively.

For what it’s worth, Yabusele has looked better this preseason on both sides of the ball. It seems as though he’s made some solid improvements since this year’s Summer League. He only registered 3 rebounds from in 11 minutes tonight, but he was the only Celtics player to finish with a positive plus/minus in double-digit minutes.

The Cavaliers were led by Kevin Love and Collin Sexton with 17 and 15 points, respectively.

The Celtics wrap up their preseason schedule on Saturday, when they travel to Cleveland for a rematch with the Cavaliers at 7:30 PM EST.

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