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Celtics lose close game to the Cavs 117-110 in lifeless outing

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The Celtics fail to prevail on the second night of a back-to-back on St. Patrick’s Day due to a lackluster approach to start the game.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics played pretty well last night against the Utah Jazz but just couldn’t seal the deal. Their effort tonight against the Cavs, especially in the first half, was lethargic. This team looks like it’s just trying to make it to the trade deadline instead of at least trying to play their best basketball.

Anyway, the Celtics lost tonight, and it wasn’t pretty for most of the game. I have sufficiently buried the “lede” here – the Celtics lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-110 despite Marcus Smart (19 points) and Robert Williams’ high-energy efforts as well as a strong second-half push from both Jaylen Brown (28 points) and Jayson Tatum (game-high 29 points). The Cavs had spectacular and energetic contributions from their starting backcourt, Darius Garland (25 points) and Collin Sexton (29 points).

Sexton and Garland might as well have been personally and kindly escorted to the rim given how Boston’s defense looked on multiple occasions tonight. They got pretty much everything they wanted in the way of easy shots, and because of it, that ignited their shooting strokes for the rest of the game. Potential trade target Larry Nance Jr. chipped in 18 points and 10 rebounds along with 4 assists and 2 steals.

For the Celtics, it’s not ideal that Boston’s two best and most consistent players in the first half – really, the only two who really showed up in the first half – are two players who can’t play heavy minutes at the moment. Marcus Smart flashed a few defensive highlights while trying to create as much offense as possible. The team’s offense still doesn’t run outrageously smoothly while Smart’s at the helm (compared to when both Smart and Kemba Walker are available), but he created a few good opportunities for himself and his teammates.

Robert Williams III is on a mission to make every Celtics fan fall in love with him.

He played a heavy load in the first half, notching 6 points and 9 rebounds in the first 15 minutes. This team needs a lot to genuinely improve, but the ability to play Rob more minutes is something that will improve this team in the short term. He creates so much activity for the Celtics on both ends with his defense and his stellar passing at his size. The +/- looks ugly for him, but the game told a different story. Rob finished with a season high in minutes (26:35) to go with 13 points and 14 rebounds.

Boston opened the game as bored as you could imagine against a Cavs team that’s been pretty awful in recent weeks. Jayson Tatum had a tough time finishing in the first half, and Jaylen Brown was having a rough start after having his contacts fall out early in the game. In the second half, Boston started to get it together. Namely, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum pulled out his bag of moves while Brown started relentlessly attacking the rim.

Brown scored 13 points in the third quarter, pushing hard to the rim possession after possession. If Brown keyed the third quarter run, Boston’s best player in Jayson Tatum made sure to seal the deal after a sensational fourth quarter in combination with Boston’s stifling zone defense. I gotta say, it’s really nice having a top-10 player who can just bail you out in the clutch. He scored 15 points in the fourth and finished with 29 points.

The Cavaliers are the worst fourth quarter team in the NBA, so it’s funny watching them eek out a tight win against . . . the second worst fourth quarter team in the NBA. The Celtics lost the game, but we’re all losers for having to watch it.

The Boston Celtics will challenge the Sacramento Kings at home at 7:30 PM EST.