Bradley, Celtics Must Be Themselves in Game 2

CLEVELAND – The Boston Celtics can compete with the Cavaliers. But if they want to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, much will need to change from Sunday’s Game 1.

First and foremost, they need to be themselves. They’ve gotten to this point by playing intelligent and spirited team basketball. Where did that disappear to during the second half?

Boston was fantastic during the first half of Game 1. It outplayed Cleveland. The only reason the Cavs were leading at halftime was because they shot the lights out from long range, making eight of 18 attempts.

That first-half performance featured the C’s we’ve all come to know and love. The ball was whipping around, turnovers were limited, and Boston’s players were in the right spot far more often than not.

Such was not the case during the second half, when the Celtics looked like a completely different team. They forced shots. They didn’t box out. They searched for offense. They committed the cardinal sin of ball handling – jumping into the air without knowing what you’re doing with the ball – multiple times.

Those mistakes allowed Cleveland to quickly turn a tight game into a breezy victory. The Cavs led by as many as 20 points during the second half as the Celtics failed to regain their mojo.

One player who had no mojo Sunday afternoon was Avery Bradley, and the Celtics aren’t winning this series without strong play from their starting shooting guard.

Bradley is Boston’s second-leading scorer, behind only Isaiah Thomas, yet he looked lost on Sunday at the offensive end. He shot just 3-of-10 from the field, including three airballs. His seven points were half of what he provided on average each night during the regular season.

It felt as if everything was moving too quickly for Bradley during this game. He never seemed comfortable handling the ball or firing up a shot.

Here’s the good news for Boston: that’s wasn’t the real Avery Bradley. We haven’t seen that guy in years, and it’s a safe bet to say that Sunday’s performance was just a blip on the radar.

Similarly, the Celtics’ second-half performance was marked by unusual play. That was not the Celtics who went 24-12 over the final 36 games of the regular season.

The Celtics who went 24-12 are known for making great decisions and operating as a team at both ends. Those are the guys who need to show up for the entirety of Game 2.

If they do, Boston will do more than just compete with the Cavs. It will have a chance to take them down.

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