I took a break from social media today, so let me react to the starting lineup in real time: oh my, we’re missing three starters again. Existence is pain. At least we get more Grant.
Back to back threes from Tatum gives the Celtics a 12-6 lead and forces a timeout from Cleveland. Then, he drills a step back over Larry Nance Jr. on the next possession. It’s interesting that Tatum always does this to taller players, since I’d assume it would be easier to get that shot off over a guard.
As Tatum is one of the first starters to rest, I’ll revive my typical Brad Stevens complaint: Why does the hot hand hit the bench first? I thought we’d been over this already? Is a game against the Cavs really so dependent on match ups that Tatum absolutely has to be the first one out? (Tatum came back in about three minutes later, after a 15-4 Cavs run).
Overall, this feels like a somber first quarter. Not a lot of inspired play, some clunky shots were taken, and the defensive lapses on Larry Nance Jr. were disappointing. Tatum looks ready, and Tremont Waters is his squirrelly self in his early minutes, but his shot still isn’t falling. Maybe finishing a back-to-back in Cleveland isn’t what they needed to shake off a tough loss.
The Cavaliers have saved the Celtics some trouble by ending the first quarter on a shot clock violation and starting this quarter with another. Scal pointed out the painstaking trouble the Cavs went through to attack the Tremont Waters match up just to burn 24 seconds and not get a shot off.
This is automatically one of my favorite lineups of the season: Jayson Tatum, Tremont Waters, Romeo Langford, Semi Ojeleye, and Robert Williams. Guaranteed energy, defense, and nifty passing. No promise of scoring, although Semi has nine points in six minutes so far.
Out of nowhere, Tatum goes on another tear to push himself to 17 points. And even better, he immediately passed out of a double-team to find Daniel Theis grazing below the rim.
15 points in the first half for Semi by doing what he does—catching, shooting, and flexing.
The Celtics had a 13-point lead that they didn’t take care of and instead, took a 58-52 lead to the half.
Oh, of course Semi is “questionable” to return now. OF COURSE THIS HAPPENS.
Marcus Smart was brilliant last game (before fouling out), but he really doesn’t look ready for this one. Starting a game shooting 1-10 happens, but a lot of the typical Smart stuff isn’t happening outside of maybe one good steal so far (the box score says he has zero but he’s made at least one good play anyway).
Celtics call timeout as the Cavaliers go up 61-59 with 9:44 left. Larry Nance Jr. is killing them in the pick-and-roll.
Boston leads 81-77 after three. There’s really no momentum in this game on either side. Boston did manage to execute the fabled end of quarter two-for-one with a Tatum fade away followed by a Grant Williams coast-to-coast dunk. Tatum (25) and Ojeleye (15) are still the only two Celtics in double digit scoring. Sexton already has 30, which is alarming given his shot selection.
Celtics quickly fall behind, but Tremont Waters puts them back up with a pull-up three.
Enes Kanter is having one of his better games in a while, so I’m probably not allowed to comment on his defense, but watching him in the pick-and-roll defense against aggressive guards is obnoxious. I’m still having nightmares where I’m trying to run, my legs won’t move, and Ish Smith is chasing me with a hatchet.
There’s nothing to be done about this, but long rebounds are KILLING the Celtics. That’s how it is with all the three-pointing shooting now—long shots mean more long rebounds.
Two players who I’d rather not put in the same sentence are getting whatever shot they want tonight: Jayson Tatum and Collin Sexton.
The previously mentioned “typical Smart things” are starting to happen, starting with bullying the Cavs on post-ups and swiping the ball away from Sexton with about 1:30 left.
Tatum’s rim defense has been spectacular. I only see him credited with one block in the box score but he really should have at least three.
#NEBHInjuryReport Romeo Langford (illness) will not return.— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 5, 2020
I don’t know what stage of the game this was announced, but I legitimately worry for this team’s health during all hours of the day.
Smart took a SHOT to the groin again. Like, an open palm power-slap. He still hit the two free throws.
Celtics win! Tatum finishes with 32, Ojeleye with 22 (5-8 three-point shooting), Smart stumbled into 18, and Kanter added 10.
This game was bad. RIP Smart’s groin. Bless the Williams squad. Follow me on Twitter.