By Douglas DiLillo
The biggest game of the Cleveland Cavaliers young season will be Thursday, but Tuesday they had another real test in the Boston Celtics.
The Cavaliers were handled easily at home, 106-87, by the Celtics, who avenged a earlier loss to Cleveland in their second game of the season.
“Thats a pretty good team,” coach Byron Scott said. “If you look at their record, they are the best team in the Eastern Conference, so you have to give them a lot of credit for coming in here and playing the way they did.”
Daniel Gibson and Anderson Varejao lead Cleveland with 16 points each, three other Cavaliers had double digits.
The Celtics are known for their “Big Three” but their is no doubt they are now being led by Rajon Rondo, who had a season-high 23 points and 12 assists.
His maturation has taken years but it was hard to envision him becoming as good a player as he is now.
After the game, Gibson said he was arguably the best best point guard playing today.
The Cavaliers got out to an early lead before the Celtics fought back in the second half to take an 11-point margin into the break. They never looked back in the second half.
“I just think in the second quarter they just decided to play a little bit,” Scott said. “They decided to come out and be a little more aggressive on both ends of the floor. Its like a boxing match, when you get punched in the face, you want to see how you react. We staggered but we never threw a punch back, that was the difference.”
The real story in the defeat had to be how badly the Cavaliers were outscored near the basket. The Celtics put up 60 points in the paint, mostly facilitated by Rondo, to the Cavaliers 26.
Cleveland’s defense had been giving up an average of 36 points per-game in the paint before this contest. It was the fifth best mark in the NBA.
“When you are playing against great teams, and I do consider that Celtic team with the guys that they have, the hall-of-famers and Doc (Rivers), a great basketball team. The one thing you have to do, especially on the defensive end is trust each other,” Scott said of his team’s defensive breakdown.
“We got away from what we talked about doing and any time you give up 60 points in the paint it is going to be hard to win.”
Coming into the new season, the Cavaliers were hoping someone would step up and be a playmaker to help fill in for LeBron James.
Most pointed to J.J. Hickson as a young player who could possibly fill the void. After struggling some in games this season and only putting up one point against the Celtics, Scott addressed his struggles thus far.
“Offensively he is still trying to find his way,” Scott said. “He had 11 rebounds. He is still searching but just like the rest of the guys he’ll be fine, we’ll be fine.”
The Cavaliers can now turn their attention to “The Return of the King” on Thursday.