C’s Fall Short in Cleveland Despite 72-Point Second Half

The Boston Celtics appeared to have the luck of the Irish on their side Wednesday night, as they battled back from a 21-point first-half deficit during their St. Patrick’s Day matchup in Cleveland. But despite pulling to within four points of the Cavaliers during the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Boston just couldn’t find the pot of gold in time, falling 117-110 for its second loss in as many nights.

This was a tale of two halves for Boston. the first half, a dismal 38-point performance; the second, a magnificent 72-point display which included a combined 45 points from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

“I thought we came out of the gate with really good effort and what happened was I thought we were affected by missing shots,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said after the game. “You could see our body language change. They had several possessions there on their offensive end where we got them to the end of the clock, and we were really guarding with great effort and you could hear us, you could feel that effort. But then we were affected and then it took us a while to get that back.”

Boston’s great effort returned in the second half, as its offense came out aggressive and ready to score. The C’s made 14 field goals in the third quarter after making just 15 during the entire first half. They also upped their field goal percentage from 37.5 percent in the first half to 52.1 percent in the second, while taking 17 more trips to the free-throw line than they did before the break.

The only thing holding them back was that Cleveland matched them blow-for-blow down the final stretch.

“In the second half, we played more like you want to play,” Stevens said. “But credit them: every time we made a run, even when we got it close there at the end, they made every timely basket.”

Despite Boston’s inability to get over the hump, Stevens was far more encouraged by its second-half response than he was discouraged by its first-half struggles.

“You have to be able to respond to those moments, you have to be able to respond to those runs and we did,” he said. “We just did it too late.”

Added Tatum on the subject, “In the second half, we played more like ourselves. We played harder, faster, gave ourselves a chance. We all wish we'd have started that way instead of trying to come back from 20 points."

This all comes back to Stevens’ oft-spoken desire of playing a full 48 minutes of good basketball, which his Celtics have not done often throughout this roller coaster of a season.

“All we’re going to keep trying to focus on is playing good basketball,” he said. “We saw more of that in the second half and didn’t see enough of it in the first, and it bit us. If you have a stretch like that against an NBA team, you’re usually in for a bad night. And when you’re playing a team that played with the kind of urgency and the way they did tonight, they made us pay for that. So, I just want to play good basketball.”

And that’s exactly what the Celtics will aim for Friday night when they return home to take on the Sacramento Kings.

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