Led by Jaylen Brown (32 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists), the Boston Celtics failed to prevail against the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime on the second night of a back-to-back after last night’s double-overtime loss to the New York Knicks. Boston got really valuable contributions from the bench after duds across the board last night, and defense plus rebounding really put the Celtics on top. Predictably, Donovan Mitchell paced the Cavs with another 40 points.
Boston tied the franchise record for overtime games in a single season with 11 such contests. That’s a lot of added mileage on the season with a little under 20 games left to go. Brown put in another 40+ minutes after a heavy minutes load on Sunday.
Boston came out way more focused and disciplined in the first half, moving the ball around crisply while getting just a liiiittllleee help from the referees. By building an early cushion, they were able to withstand counter attacks from Donovan Mitchell and the Cavs. Boston shot the ball much better, and their defense was a lot cleaner despite featuring players who aren’t always in the rotation.
Blake Griffin and Mike Muscala started in the frontcourt in place of Al Horford and Robert Williams. Derrick White (12 points) stepped in for Jayson Tatum who missed the game with a left knee contusion. Malcolm Brogdon returned after two games off due to right ankle soreness, and his play made a huge difference. He poured in 24 points and 5 assists.
Shake and bake leads to the 3pt take pic.twitter.com/8jGu70tu69— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 7, 2023
Grant Williams (12 points) had an immediate impact in his minutes off the bench despite being the last rotation player to sub in. Instead of hesitating or putting the ball down on the floor, he was immediately pulling the trigger on 3-pointers cashing in on all of them. While his freethrow misses will stand out, he played well tonight.
For the Cavs, they had to battle foul trouble and a ton of turnovers that put them into a big hole early on. For the second game in a row against the Celtics, Jarrett Allen has had minimal impact on the game. He was in foul trouble early on. Evan Mobley used his length on both ends to frustrate the Celtics, finishing with 25 points. That’s the extent of Mitchell’s help as Darius Garland (17 points) struggled from the field until the very end of the game.
Staying in front of quick guards was a point of emphasis entering tonight after being carved up relentlessly in the last week. For the most part, the Cs were successful as they locked up Garland and forced Mitchell into some truly tough shots.
The Celtics started the night shooting hot, but as that started to fall off, they made up for it with solid defense and really good rebounding, limiting Cleveland’s chances and creating more for themselves. After jumping out to an early lead, the Celtics largely were in control for the rest of the evening before the late-game collapse, fueled by a Cavs 14-4 run.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Darius Garland and some bad offense from the Celtics sparked a late Cavs run that stoked the fears of the Celtics’ habit of letting their foot off the gas. This was eerily similar to last Wednesday’s game, but this time, Cleveland came all the way back. Jaylen Brown and Donovan Mitchell went blow for blow before the latter took the lead with 24.7 seconds left.
All of that set up for a Derrick White 3-pointer to luckily bounce in with 12.8 seconds left. Donovan Mitchell got to the line with 5.8 seconds left, nailing both FTs. Payton Pritchard took the ball the length of the court to force a shot, leading to a Grant Williams offensive putback attempt on which he was fouled. Unfortunately, Williams missed both FTs.
Boston kept going for home-run plays to start OT, which is understandable given the minutes load of late. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize. Cleveland went up by four points, and Joe Mazzulla showed trust in Grant Williams, going to him once again. Williams bricked the 3-point attempt, and that was all she wrote.
The Celtics will take on the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night at home before embarking on a long road trip that will take them all over the country for 14 nights. They’re currently two games out of the first seed behind the Milwaukee Bucks.