BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics have put up three solid fights against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but all they have to show for it is a 3-0 series hole and a win-or-go-home Game 4 on Sunday.
The Celtics dropped Game 3 in front of their home fans Thursday night, 103-95, keeping things close, but ultimately falling to LeBron James and the Cavaliers.READ MORE: Thousands Lose Power As Strong Winds Spread Damage Across Several Towns
The Celtics have been applauded for hanging around in each of the first three games this series, but head coach Brad Stevens wasn’t very happy with his team’s effort on Thursday night.
“The bottom line is we didn’t play with any poise,” Stevens said following the loss. “I don’t know if it was the terrific environment in here, if it’s that we were down 0-2. But I thought they really played with poise and in control. We did not.”
Look no further than Boston’s 15 turnovers, which led to 20 points for the Cavaliers. Add on 11 offensive rebounds for the Cavaliers, including a pair of huge offensive boards in the final minutes, and the Celtics gave the Cavaliers too many extra chances once again.
“We’ve said it over and over, it’s an eight-point game at the end of the day and there are so many possessions we threw away,” said Stevens.
The Celtics were within three with 2:13 left, but Tristan Thompson grabbed a Kyrie Irving miss and found Kevin Love for a three. The Celtics were within five in the final minute, and could have made some more noise after LeBron missed a jumper with 49 seconds left. But Thompson was there again for the offensive board, and once again hit Love for another three.
Love’s shot was the dagger, but Boston’s inability to keep Cleveland off the offensive glass is what’s been their Achilles heal all series. Five of Thompson’s seven rebounds were offensive on Thursday night, and Cleveland is outrebounding Boston 38-29 on the offensive glass this series.
And it’s been the timing of those offensive rebounds that has really cost the Celtics.
“It’s tough being out there, battling back, every time we’re coming close they get a big offensive rebound for a big three,” said Evan Turner, who had 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists on Thursday. “That’s just the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”READ MORE: 'It Can Work,' Summer Camps Will Be Open, But They'll Look A Lot Different
“The offensive rebounds and the turnovers, that’s what they were scoring on,” noted Celtics guard Avery Bradley, who finished with 18 points on 7-for-18 shooting. “We’re going to miss shots during the game, we can’t control that. We can control turnovers and offensive rebounds. That’s just effort.”
Still, Turner felt he and his teammates still showed poise in the second half, and Stevens’ statement may be a little strong.
“We’re on the bench encouraging each other. In that third quarter, they went on a great run and we still battled back,” he said. “I think we were resilient. All our mentalities were to win the game. We’ve got to get over the hump; there’s no such thing as a great loss.”
Now Boston enters Sunday’s Game 4 with their backs against the wall, with no team in history conquering a 3-0 series hole. They’ve been credited for their gritty play throughout the course of the season, fighting through massive roster turnover to claim a playoff spot despite the low expectations, but now face the grim reality that they may have just 48 minutes left in the 2014-15 campaign.
The Celtics are going to do everything they can to make sure that’s not the case.
“It’s tough, but at the same time we believe in the guys we have in the locker room,” said Jared Sullinger. “Our plan is to win.”
“If we come out and punch them in the face, we have a chance to win the game,” said Bradley. “That has to be our mindset from the beginning of the game, to come out and play hard.”
Tune in to Celtics-Cavaliers Game 4 on 98.5 The Sports Hub — the flagship station of the Boston Celtics. Pregame coverage begins at 12:30pm!MORE NEWS: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments