Cleveland Cavaliers visited the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, losing 103-91. Ultimately it came down to a lack of intensity on defense, and a confusing offensive strategy that didn’t allow Kyrie Irving enough touches.
Anderson Varejao, the league’s leading rebounder, sat out with a bruised knee. Varejao usually provides a contagious amount of ferocious energy for the Cavaliers, and his absence was painfully obvious. On the defensive side of the ball, it was most notable. Cleveland displayed a disturbing lack of enthusiasm.
His leadership and intelligence were also missed. Without his guidance the Cavaliers constantly looked confused during their defensive rotations. Boston took advantage, finding an excessive amount of open, uncontested looks.
Paul Pierce took the extra room he was given and scored 40 points on 13-of-16 shooting, including 6-of-7 on three point attempts. Rajon Rondo contributed 20 points, and eight assists. Overall the Boston starters shot 68.9%.
The game was close until about midway through the second quarter, and the Celtics closed out the half up by eight points. Pierce broke out in the third, scoring 12 straight points for Boston during a 12-2 run, making it 75-57.
Boston pushed the lead to 20, but the young Cleveland team fought back. Irving, who had been relatively quiet until that point, scored seven straight to close the third quarter, making it 82-72.
Tyler Zeller, who started at center in place of Varejao, played with an excellent amount of energy and focus down the stretch. It was in large part due to his effort that Cleveland was able to get within two points. After Zeller's three point play in the fourth the score was 82-80. He would finish with 20 points, and three rebounds.
Despite their best efforts, they allowed Boston to go on a 14-4 run, and it would go on to cost them the game.
Cleveland seemed like a different team once they were down by 20. They showed resiliency, and heart. If they had played that way throughout the game the outcome may have been in their favor.
Offensively, Cleveland’s attack was a bit odd. Kyrie Irving, who is without question their best player, didn’t seem too involved for many stretches of the game. Normally, Irving does most of the ball handling, and leads the offensive attack. However, against Boston Dion Waiters and Alonzo Gee took on the ball-handling role. At a few points he was visibly frustrated, after yelling for a pass, and not receiving one. He still managed to finish with a team-high 22 points, but with only two assists.
Coach Byron Scott and the Cavaliers seem to not know how to handle their star player. This is bound to happen when a team’s best scorer is also their point guard. A more consistent approach will be needed moving forward, and it is probably best if the ball goes through his hands on most possessions.
Without Irving running the offense, the Cavaliers struggled to find good looks, and often forced shots. Overall they shot 40.9%.
An offensive bright spot was Tristan Thompson who, taking a page out of Varejao’s book pulled down six offensive rebounds. This was very crucial during Cleveland’s rally late in the game. Thompson finished with 11 points, and 12 rebounds overall.
Cleveland now looks ahead to Friday night when they host the Indiana Pacers. Last time these two met up Cleveland blew a 16-point lead by scoring mere 23 points in the second half, ultimately losing 96-81.
The Cavaliers will need to come in with some passion, particularly on defense, if they want to win this game. Unfortunately this has been hard to come by as of late. Anderson Varejao will be a game-time decision.
Game tips at 7:30 pm EST.
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