Dribbles: Foul shots? JB Bickerstaff mentions disparity after Cavs fight, then fade

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 120-113 road loss to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.Jaylen Brown drives against Jarrett Allen

1. Two losses in two nights, both far from home. We knew this four-game trip would be a doozy.

2. The Cavs lost at Orlando on Monday, then headed straight for Boston. They arrived at about 2 a.m. The Celtics last played on Friday.

3. Still, for the second straight night, the Cavs led at halftime (60-59). That was in large part because of a terrific first quarter. But the Celtics are 11-0 at home for a reason. They make shots in that building. Period.

4. Truth be told, they just outgunned the Cavs to break open a back-and-forth game late in the fourth quarter. I doubt anyone will admit this, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if some of that had to do with the Cavs’ travel legs. 

5. Anyway, it was another valiant effort, as the Cavs (13-11) have yet to be blown out this season. In the NBA, that’s saying something — even when you’re only 24 games in.

6. Clearly, the Celtics (17-5) have been the beasts of the East in the early season. With the likes of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and now Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday, you’ll need to play nearly a perfect game to beat them. For a while, it looked like the Cavs might just do it.

7. Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland were again very good, putting up an almost identical stat line. Mitchell finished with 29 points on 11-of-22 shooting. Garland scored 26 on 11-of-23. Garland also passed for seven assists.

8. Normally, the Cavs are reliable defensively for the full game. But they had some major issues in the second quarter, when they switched to a 2-3 zone. Perhaps it was an effort to preserve their legs. Or at least try. Boston made the Cavs pay by scoring 38 points in the second.

9. Another telling stat: The Celtics were a sizzling 26-of-26 on free throws. The Cavs took just nine. When it’s that big of a deficit, you can’t help but wonder if there may have been some home cookin’ involved. Not uncommon in Boston.

10. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to reporters on that very topic: “It’s the story of the game. Our guys drive, penetrate … no way we only shoot nine free throws, and they shoot 26. I don’t know how to explain it.”

11. Bickerstaff was very calm in rattling off those numbers. There wasn’t really a hint of anger. He just shrugged. “I know our guys put pressure on the paint, just as much as anybody,” he said. “You can’t overcome a discrepancy (that’s) 26-9.”

12. The Cavs shot the ball much better than the previous night, hitting 42 percent of their 3-pointers (19-of-45). Max Strus scored 17 points, Jarrett Allen had 14, and Caris LeVert returned from an ankle injury to add 11 off the bench.

13. Overall, the effort was there and the Cavs gave themselves a chance. It really just boiled down to them being less on fire than the Celtics in the game’s final eight minutes. Not a lot you can do about that.

14. More Bickerstaff: “All things we ask them to do — sharing the ball, sharing the game — I thought we did a great job. There are some adjustments we can make where we can be better defensively. But that’s on us, as coaches, to put the plan together Thursday night.”

15. Yes, that is correct. The Cavs’ next game is again at Boston. At least this time they will have a day off first. A lot of fans don’t care for these types of games during the regular season, where you play the same team twice, on the road, in three days. But I say bring it on. After all, it’s often how it’s done in the playoffs. May as well get used to it.

16. Tatum and Brown each scored 25 to lead the Celtics. Porzingis added 21, though he went just 5-of-16 shooting. But as Bickerstaff noted, Porzingis took nine free throws. Clearly, the Cavs coach thought some of those were bailouts.

17. No word yet on if Evan Mobley will play on Thursday. He’s missed all three games on the trip with a knee issue. The Cavs could use him against a bigger team such as Boston, that’s for darn sure.

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