Cavaliers 124, Celtics 95

FINAL, Cavaliers 124-95 Beyonce was in the building, but the Celtics won’t be putting on rings anytime soon after a 124-95 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight at TD Garden.

Bad pop jokes aside, Game 3 was a disaster for the Celtics from the start. Elbow be damned, LeBron James dropped in 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the first quarter. The entire Celtics team mustered only 17 in the first, and the Celtics found themselves down by 19 points.

It would only get worse. The Cavs shot 62-percent in the first half and led 65-43 at the break. A third-quarter comeback never materialized. Aside from some fussing and fighting in the final frame, the rest of the game had nothing to offer. Playing on cruise control the rest of the way, James would finish with 38.

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After an encouraging two-game split in Cleveland, Game 3 could not have been more different. At one point in the third quarter of tonight’s game the Cavaliers took a 91-65 lead. Contrast that with Game 2, where the Celtics led Cleveland 91-66 at one point in the second half.

There were many troubling signs for the Celtics Friday night, but nothing was more disheartening than their team defensive effort. Even when Cleveland scored 101 points in Game 1, the Celtics held the Cavaliers to 48-percent shooting. In Game 2, a Celtics win, Boston held the Cavs to 86 points on 40-percent shooting.

In Game 3, it seemed like the Cavaliers took any shot they wanted. Cleveland’s 59-percent shooting (it was higher until the bench came in for garbage time) was not just impressive; It was embarrassing for the home team. The Celtics won’t win another postseason game with that kind of defense.

And we can end all that “Rajon Rondo is the best player in this series” talk for now. Rondo finished with 18 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds, but the Celtics point guard made just 9 of 17 shots from the floor. Rondo’s plus/minus of -28 was the worst on the team.

Paul Pierce struggled mightily again for the Celtics, hitting just 4 of 15 shots.

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Homecourt advantage once again belongs to the Cavaliers, and the Celtics are looking at a must-win Sunday afternoon to avoid going back to Cleveland down 3-1. Doc Rivers said before the game that the playoffs weren’t so much about making wholesale changes as they were about tightening up what the players have been practicing all along.

He’s got a lot of tightening to do.

8:33 fourth quarter, Cavaliers 104-77Kevin Garnett is called for a technical for leaving his elbows too high during the rebounding action. This game is over for the Celtics, but that hasn’t stopped things from getting testy on the court.

END third quarter, Cavaliers 96-70The Cavaliers increased their lead by three points in the third quarter. Cleveland is shooting 63 percent from the floor. What’s more astounding is that the Cavs have built this lead while only hitting four shoots from beyond the arc. It’s been a complete dismantling of the Celtics’ D.

But it’s not just the defense. Paul Pierce is 4 of 13. Rajon Rondo is 8 of 16 (too many shots?).

4:32 third quarter, Cavaliers 86-58Don’t call it a comeback. Because it’s not. LeBron James (33 points) is playing the role of facilitator, with other Cavs players, notably Antawn Jamison, stepping up. It’ll be interesting to see how much of a fight the Celtics put up the rest of the way.

7:00 third quarter, Cavaliers 77-54Can the Celtics chip away at this thing? The offense seems to be coming around a little, but the Cavaliers have actually increased their lead. Hard to imagine the Celtics have enough defense to make up a 23-point gap.

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10:36 third quarter, Cavaliers 70-47Rajon Rondo only has 4 assists to this point. Mo Williams has three.

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Halftime, Cavaliers 65-43:If forced to pick just one problem the Celtics had in the first half, it would clearly be defense (it wasn’t only defense, but it’s a good place to start).

Cleveland scored 65 points in the first half on Boston’s home floor, and the Celtics didn’t make it very difficult. The Cavs shot 62 percent from the field. LeBron James got 28 points in what looked like a lay-up drill. If the defense doesn’t improve, the Celtics won’t win.

Kevin Garnett came to play tonight. He’s got 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, though his two rebounds leave something to be desired. The Celtics are being outrebounded 24-10. That, too, has to change.

And then we can talk about offense.


3:57 second quarter, Cavaliers 55-35:A fan just called out, “Hey [Celtics assistant Tom] Thibodeu, how about some defense?” He’s right. The Cavaliers are shooting 66 percent. They’re also 15 of 17 at the line, which doesn’t hurt.
6:50 second quarter, Cavaliers 45-27:Nothing’s going right for the Celtics. Paul Pierce was just isolated on Mo Williams and blew the bunny. Pierce is 0 for 5. Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, and Rasheed Wallace all have two fouls.
END first quarter, Cavaliers 36-17:Celtics fans may have a right to bicker about a few of the calls that went against the home team in the first quarter.
But put the calls aside. Truth be told the Celtics aren’t doing much of anything right. They’re stagnant on offense; Boston is shooting 27 percent from the field, and two possessions ended in desparate Rajon Rondo three-point attempts.
On defense, they’re letting LeBron James get wherever he wants to go on the court. James had 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the first quarter. He could have had about 10 more.
What an ugly start.
2:00 first quarter, Cavaliers 27-15:LeBron James is officially outscoring the Celtics, 16-15.
5:11 first quarter, Cavaliers 20-8:Some tough calls on the Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett. The Celtics aren’t helping their own cause, shooting 23 percent.
6:59 first quarter, Cavaliers 12-8: Kendrick Perkins gives a hard foul to LeBron James. The home crowd liked the aggressive play until Perkins was called for a Flagrant 1. James made both freebies, then hit a jumper for a four-point possession.
9:52 first quarter, Cavaliers 6-2: Another bucket by Shaq and a bucket by LeBron, but Kevin Garnett takes advantage of the mismatch with Antawn Jamison and creates his own shot for two. The Celtics should go to Garnett. Often.
11:07 first quarter, Cavaliers 2-0: Shaq hacked, makes both free throws.
Pregame: The Celtics are on the court, the fans have their thundersticks, and we’re about 15 minutes from tip. Stay tuned. Update: Bob Weir with the anthem. David Stern is in the house for this one.