After a 30 point loss in Game 3, the Celtics have to regroup and get back to playing tough gritty defense and being the more aggressive team. The Celtics were clearly out-played in just about every facet of the game in their first game in Cleveland, after being the aggressors in Games 1 and 2.
The Celtics went away from being patient on offense and playing together on defense and that allowed the Cavs to take control of the game. The Celtics weren’t communicating with each other and they resorted to iso’s on offense instead of sharing the ball and moving without the ball to get the best shots. The Cavs took advantage of all of it as they played with their backs against the wall.
For the first time in the series, LeBron’s supporting cast came to play and the Celtics were out-played from start to finish. Al Horford and Jaylen Brown, who led the Celtics in Games 1 and 2 were stifled and Brown spent the whole game in foul trouble. The Cavs were more physical and more disciplined and the Celtics just never seemed to be engaged.
Brad Stevens once again said that there may be some changes and that other players will have to step up for the team. Aron Baynes or Semi Ojeleye could return to the starting lineup or the starters could stay the same and the rotation could change. Regardless of any lineup changes, the biggest change for the Celtics must be more energy and effort and more chemistry from the players who are on the court.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Daniel Theis (knee) out
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Shane Larkin (shoulder) out
Probable Cavaliers Starters
Larry Nance Jr
Marcus Morris (or Jayson Tatum) vs LeBron James
After a game in which LeBron was able to do anything he wanted on both ends of the court in Game 3, whether it is Morris, Tatum, Brown, or Ojeleye who guards LeBron they have to find a way to limit his passes and his ability to get to the basket. They also have to be active on offense to make LeBron work and not be able to rest on the defensive end.
Al Horford (or Aron Baynes) vs Tristan Thompson
Thompson has been effective in the past in guarding Horford and has also been a beast on the boards. Horford (or Baynes) needs to box out Thompson and do their best to keep him out of the paint. Time after time in Game 3, Thompson was allowed to get inside for rebounds and put backs. The Celtics have to find a way to limit those.
Jaylen Brown vs JR Smith
Smith came out aggressively and hit some big shots in Game 3. Jaylen found himself in early foul trouble and was never able to get going. He finished with just 10 points and didn’t score until 8:20 left in the 2nd quarter. Smith, who didn’t score in Game 2 had 11 points in Game 3. Jaylen has to win his matchup for the Celtics to win this game.
Celtics Bench vs Cavaliers Bench
The Celtics reserves scored 20 points in Game 1 while their counterparts from the Cavs bench scored 37. In Game 2, the Celtics reserves scored 28 points to 19 for the Cavs reserves. In Game 3, the Celtics reserves were out-scored 42-29. The Celtics will need every player to play well and they will need the reserves to hold their own against the Cavs reserves to win Game 4 on the road.
Keys to the Game
Defense As always, defense is the key to every single game. The Celtics won Games 1 and 2 with their swarming lock down defense, holding the Cavs to 83 and 94 points. They lost Game 3 because they were not engaged on the defensive end and allowed the Cavs to get to the hoop as well along with shooting 50% from beyond the arc. The Celtics MUST communicate and they have to play tough lock down defense both in the paint and on the perimeter if they want to win this game.
Rebound - Rebounding is second to defense in importance for the Celtics to get a win. Much of rebounding is effort and so the Celtics have to work hard to beat the Cavs to rebounds. The Cavs are averaging 42.5 rebounds for the series while the Celtics are averaging 47 rebounds for the series. The Celtics out-rebounded the Cavs in the first two games by 8 and 1 respectively, but were out-rebounded 45-34 in Game 3. They will need to work harder on the boards in this game if they want to win it.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics were the more aggressive team in the first two games. They beat the Cavs to loose balls and the 50/50 balls and they were aggressive on the boards and on defense and getting to the basket. That changed in Game 3 with the Celtics being passive and the Cavs being more physical and aggressive. The Celtics have to get back to playing harder and being the more aggressive team. They can’t allow the Cavs to outwork them.
Control LeBron’s Supporting Cast - It’s almost impossible to stop a player like LeBron who gets the benefit of most of the calls and can drive and dip his shoulder into any defenders as he goes to the basket. In the first two games, the Celtics were able to stop players other than LeBron from getting open looks and from being effective. In Game 3, the Cavs had 6 players in double figures. That can’t happen again if the Celtics want to win this game.
Move the Ball - The Celtics get into trouble when they take quick shots and don’t move the ball enough to get the defense out of position. Their assists are usually down in their losses and up in their wins. The biggest sign that the Celtics played poorly was the fact that they had just 16 assists while the Cavs had 23. The Celtics have to move the ball and find the open man. Hero ball doesn’t win games.
Focus - The Celtics obviously didn’t come out focused in Game 3. They lacked patience on offense and positioning and quickness on defense. They have to focus on playing Celtics basketball - passing, defending, being aggressive and physical. The Celtics need to come out focused and play like it is Game 7 if they want to win a tough game on the road.
On the Road - The Celtics are now 1-5 on the road in the playoffs. They were the third best road team in the regular season and so it’s odd that they have struggled so much in the playoffs. They need to be able to block out the distractions of playing on the road and the hostile crowd and focus on playing Celtics basketball.
Officiating - The officiating is always an x-factor. In some games so far the officiating was very good and they let both teams play and let some contact go both ways but didn’t let it get out of hand. In some others the refs were not good and called it more one sided. With Scott Foster and Bill Kennedy tonight it may be a long night. That also means that we have a Tony Brothers game coming up.
With Scott Foster as the lead ref, it’s hard to tell what we will get in this one. At times he calls games one sided and is a tyrant with the whistle, calling every little thing and at other times he calls it evenly and lets them play. Tim Donaghy described Foster as a company man who will do what is asked of him to keep his seniority among refs.
Foster was part of the 2010 Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter completely different than the first 3 quarters and very one sided for the Lakers with 21 free throws for the Lakers and 6 for the Celtics in the final 12 minutes. He was voted the worst referee in the league by the players and coaches in an LA Times article. Here is a comment from that article:
“He had one of our playoff games and as soon as he walked in, I was like, ‘This game is over.’ We all knew we were going to get bad calls, and we did,” said one veteran player. “You couldn’t say anything to him. Hell, I don’t think you could even look at him.
Foster called Game 4 of the Sixers series. They allowed the Sixers to be OVERLY aggressive and physical and the Celtics could’t do anything without getting called. In the second quarter, the Celtics were called for 12 fouls while the Sixers were called for 1. That set the stage for the Celtics being very tentative while the Sixers were more aggressive. The worst was when Marcus dove for the ball and got it with Simmons diving on him and landing on Marcus’ injured thumb and Marcus was called for the foul.
Home teams win 63.3% of the time when Foster calls the games. He calls 44.7 fouls per game with 50.4% of those going against the road team.
Bill Kennedy has been decent in the games he’s called for the Celtics in the last couple of seasons. This is his first game in these playoffs with the Celtics. He was fined for a run in with Doc Rivers before he left Boston. He also tossed Rondo for an anti-gay slur before he left Boston. It’s possible he likes Boston for getting rid of both of them. However the home team wins 58.3% of the time when he is a referee and he calls 52% of the fouls against the road team.
Eric Lewis, like most refs, has been good in some games and bad in others. This is his first game with the Celtics in this year’s playoffs. The home team wins 62.5% of the time when he is calling a game and he calls 52.3% of the fouls vs the road teams in games.