Keys to the Game

Keys to the Game: Cavaliers 121, Celtics 99

Key Moment
Key Player
Box Score Nuggets
Quote of the Night

Key Moment

Sunday afternoon was Paul Pierce’s day, as his No. 34 was retired by the Boston Celtics organization. “That’s what today is all about,” Brad Stevens said before tip-off.

There was, however, a game to be played between the C’s and the Cavs, and Stevens wanted his team to contribute to Pierce’s day with a great performance.

“Our role in [the celebration] is to try to prepare and play as well as we can against a really good team,” he said.

The Celtics did play well, but only for a quarter and a half.

Boston went back and forth with Cleveland through the first 18-plus minutes of the game. The contest featured 13 lead changes and nine ties during that time frame, and the Cavs held onto a slim two-point advantage with less than five minutes to play in the first half.

Then everything fell apart for the Celtics, and quickly.

Cleveland scored the next eight points and tallied 16 in total during the final 4:49 of the quarter. The Cavs built up a 64-52 lead by halftime, and they never looked back from there.

While Boston struggled to put the ball through the basket, it felt as if every shot that left Cleveland’s hands swished its way home. The Cavs pulled ahead by as many as 29 points during the second half as the crowd anxiously awaited the final buzzer, which would signal the onset of the main event: Pierce’s number retirement ceremony.

The C’s certainly attempted to play well against Cleveland to set up a perfect day for Pierce, but they just didn’t have it. The Cavs, with their new-look roster, dominated the final 29 minutes of the game before closing out a 121-99 win.

Key Player

LeBron James didn’t play much Sunday afternoon, but when he was on the court, he looked like the best player in the world.

James recorded game highs of 24 points and 10 assists against Boston while hitting nine of his 20 shots and committing only two turnovers. He also tallied eight rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot, and he did all of this in less than 29 minutes of game action.

Cleveland outscored Boston by 23 points while James was on the court. That rating was by far the best in the game, as the next-best plus/minus rating was plus-17, logged by both JR Smith and George Hill.

James may have had some added motivation on this day. Not only were his new-look Cavs playing on national television, but James also had Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce sitting nearby the Cavs bench, as they awaited the retirement ceremony for Pierce’s No. 34 jersey. This was a not-so-gentle reminder of the force that broke through their group and took over the Eastern Conference back in 2012.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Cleveland's bench totaled 52 points, led by 17 from Jordan Clarkson, 15 from Rodney Hood and 10 from Jeff Green.
  • LeBron James led the game in both points (24) and assists (10).
  • Cleveland committed only 11 turnovers.
  • Terry Rozier came off of Boston's bench to stuff the stat sheet with 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
  • Al Horford led the Celtics with six assists.
  • The Cavaliers made 16 of their 30 3-point attempts, good for a 53.3 percent clip.
  • The Cavs led by as many as 29 points.
  • The game featured 13 ties and nine lead changes, and all of those took place during the first 18 minutes of the game.

Quote of the Night

One thing I give credit to Boston – man, they praise the greats.

Kyrie Irving on the treatment Celtics fans gave Paul Pierce throughout Sunday's game, ahead of the retirement ceremony for his No. 34 jersey.

Key Player