Dribbles: Cavs Can’t Hang With Spirited Celtics This Time, And Solutions Not So Easy For Next

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 106-93 home loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series. …Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics, Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

1. The Cavs had a few chances to make a game of this, to make the Celtics sweat. But the margin of error is so small here. One missed shot, one bad pass, one defensive lapse … and it can be lights out.

2. Boston is very good. You already knew that. As I’ve written before, the Cavs need to play a near-perfect game and hope that the Celtics sort of wet the bed to have a real chance. That’s what happened in Game 2.

3. Game 3 was a different story. The Cavs weren’t terrible; the Celtics were just great. We all knew Boston All-Star forward Jayson Tatum was due for a big night. Well, Saturday night in Cleveland was it, as Tatum attacked repeatedly to finish with 33 points and 13 rebounds.

4. Meanwhile, the Cavs returned to being Donovan Mitchell and not nearly enough of the other guys. Mitchell went for 33 points, and man, some of the ways he got them defy logic.

5. Twisting in the lane around defenders, runners off one leg in the key, pullup 3-pointers in traffic, driving layups despite being pushed and scratched and clawed. It’s truly remarkable what this one man can do.

5. But these are the Celtics and one man ain’t gonna cut it.

6. Sorry, though, I can’t be too tough on the Cavs. The Celtics just brought one of their best efforts of the year. That’s hard for anyone to match. I don’t know that the Cavs are built to overcome it. No one expects them to be, anyway.

7. At one point in the second half, the Celtics led by 23. But the Cavs fought back, mostly behind Mitchell, to cut it to 88-79 with 8:05 to go. That’s when Mitchell missed a stepback three … and then Celtics guard Payton Pritchard buried a 33-footer at the other end.

8. I knew then it was probably over. The Cavs had a chance to cut it to six. Instead, they went back down by 12.

9. As coach J.B. Bickerstaff said: “We did a good job of sharing and creating open (looks). We just didn’t make as many as we needed.”

10. He can say that again, as the Cavaliers’ starting forwards finished just 3-of-15 shooting. That would be Isaac Okoro (1-of-7) and Max Strus (2-of-8). Not gonna beat Tatum and Jaylen Brown (28 points, 13-of-17 shooting) that way.

11. Darius Garland (15 points, six assists) was just kind of out there in the first half, but came alive in the second and made a bit of an impact. The Cavs have been hoping Garland would be the Brown to Mitchell’s Tatum, or vice-versa, and it just hasn’t happened in this series, or really, these playoffs.

12. Evan Mobley (17 points, 11 rebounds) was solid, maybe better than solid. But certainly not as dominant as Game 2. That said, I’m not real sure what more he could’ve done. It’s really hurting the Cavs that Jarrett Allen (ribs) remains on the sidelines, though obviously no fault of his own. It especially makes life more difficult for Mobley.

13. It also really hurts the Cavs on the glass. This series has been determined by rebounding, and Boston cruised in that department in Game 3 by a 44-35 count.

14. Yes, Dean Wade finally returned and looked good. Perhaps his presence will offer an even bigger boost in Game 4. Basically, the Cavaliers have to find something, anything to inspire them if they hope to pull off the upset.

15. Mitchell on the loss: “Give them credit, they came out with a sense of urgency. (But) a lot of it was self-induced. There were a bunch of things we could’ve done better. Little details, little runs can change the game. That’s the frustrating part.”

16. That’s just it — the little things. The Cavaliers have to be better than the Celtics in those areas. Loose balls, screens, challenged shots, whatever. They did it once. Can they do it three more times?

17. More Bickerstaff: “You gotta keep attacking and attack through physicality. We’re not getting those whistles, so we gotta play through it.”

18. Caris LeVert added 15 points and played with great determination as usual. Wade added five. And that was it for the bench scoring.

19. Defensively, the Cavs ran the Celtics off the 3-point line, just not as well as Game 2. “It was the timing” of when the Cavs slipped up that cost them, Mitchell said.

20. For the record, and I haven’t been in the postgame locker room regularly, but Mitchell looked as demoralized as I’ve seen him. It didn’t seem to be directed at anyone — more a look of distress, as if he were asking, “What more can I do?”

21. That’s actually a question for all the Cavaliers. They don’t need a miracle, but they do need to stay determined, clean things up, and believe that anything can happen if they can just get the next one. It is indeed again must-win time. Game 4 is Monday in Cleveland.

Looking for the latest NBA Insider News & Rumors?

Be sure to follow Hoops Wire on TWITTER and FACEBOOK for breaking NBA News and Rumors for all 30 teams!

Leave a Reply