By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If you can’t say anything nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all. But plenty needs to be said about the Celtics’ display in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Celtics are nowhere near the Cavaliers, which we knew going into the series. But Friday night? It was ugly. It was discouraging. It was flat-out embarrassing.
The Celtics were shellacked by the Cavaliers 130-86 in front of their home fans, giving Cleveland a 2-0 stranglehold on the series. Cleveland led by 50 at one point, and the 44-point defeat is the second-worst loss in Celtics playoff history.
“It was, honestly, just embarrassing,” Avery Bradley said in the locker room after the loss. “They came out, not only playing harder, but knocked down shots, and that made it that much worse. Credit to those guys. We’ll see what kind of team we are [in Game 3].”
“This game counts as one loss, thankfully. Thankfully they don’t do point differential when they’re trying to figure out a series,” head coach Brad Stevens joked after the game.
But there’s little to actually laugh at from Friday night’s display, unless you’re one of those people who loves misery.
The Celtics came out flat once again, missing open shots and quality looks. They started 0-for-6 from the floor, allowing the Cavaliers to jump out to a 9-2 lead. The closest Boston ever got was 11-10, because LeBron James and the Cavs did whatever they wanted after that. They went on a 10-0 run that turned into a 21-8 run by the time the quarter was over. The Celtics went just 6-for-21 from the floor in the first frame, and trailed 32-18.
The second quarter was an even more terrifying horror show as Boston was outscored 40-13. Their 72-31 halftime deficit was the largest ever in NBA playoff history.
Isaiah Thomas, who didn’t play in the second half of Friday night’s debacle with a hip injury, joked that the Cavaliers weren’t the “Monstars” from Space Jam the other day. In a way, he’s right, because Cleveland looked even better than those animated aliens on Friday night (it also should be noted that the Monstars blew a fairly hefty lead to the Looney Tunes at the end of that flick).
Yeah, Friday was disgusting, and it may have been the final time the Celtics played on their home floor this season. Given the outright dominance the Cavaliers displayed in both games at the TD Garden, it doesn’t seem likely the Celtics will host another game with the next two games of the series in Cleveland.
The Celtics are red in the face, displaying both anger and embarrassment following Friday night’s loss, but they aren’t throwing up the white flag just yet.
“As bad as it is for us and our group right now, it’s not over yet,” said Al Horford, who had been magnificent this postseason before a pair of no-shows against Cleveland. “We still have Game 3 on Sunday. It hurts right now, it’s tough, but we have that to look forward to. We just want to play better. We have to play better and compete throughout the 48 [minutes]. Our backs are against the wall and this will be a good opportunity.
“No one is pointing fingers,” Horford added. “We’re sticking together.”
“For me, the game’s over,” said Bradley. “We’ve already been embarrassed. What more can happen now?”
We knew these Celtics were not in Cleveland’s class, and it was less than a slim-to-none chance that they’d win the series. The hope was they’d maybe take a game, possibly two, but remain competitive throughout while showing that scrappy fire they displayed the majority of nights during the regular season. But whatever that was one Friday night showed they’re a galaxy away. It’s one game, but that effort (or lack thereof) makes all of that “one or two players away” chatter seem downright hilarious at the moment.
So where do the Celtics go from here? Stevens said it was simple: Cleveland for Games 3 and 4.
“You go and compete on Sunday. What else do you do? That’s what I said when I went into the locker room: Each game is worth one,” Stevens reiterated. “We played probably better than the score indicated in [Game 1], but not good, and we obviously played one of our worst games you could play today. Coupled with how good they are and how well they’ve played, that’s going to be a bad deal.
“We have to play a lot better, so we’re going to focus on us. We’re going to figure out ways to play better, and we’re going to go after it on Sunday. We’re getting on that plane to play well,” said Stevens.
“They’ve been punking us two games in a row. We just have to respond the right way,” said Bradley.
The Celtics better hope so. Even with the top overall pick in next month’s draft and room to add a max contract this summer, ending the season by getting their doors blown off by the Cavaliers for four straight games would make for a long summer in Boston, and ruin the luster on an otherwise rewarding and successful season.