No defense for this horror show
Listless Celtics simply can't stop LeBron & Co. in embarrassing home loss
BOSTON -- Here's what the Boston Celtics have to look forward to on Saturday: Reliving the entire 2-hour and 33-minute nightmare that was Friday's Game 3 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers all over again on video.
Cruel and unusual punishment? Probably. Scarier than the latest edition of "Nightmare on Elm Street"? Most definitely.
But the way Doc Rivers sees it, the Celtics can't just forget what happened and move on.
"You don't throw it out because, defensively, I don't think there's a lot of changing we have to do, but we do have to do it harder, better," said Rivers. "We have to do it and be on the same page. So, videowise, they need to see it. They need to see how they moved and how we moved. And then if there are adjustments, we can make them."
Adjustments almost certainly have to be made, particularly after a Boston team that prides itself on defense gave up 124 points on its home court in a swing game of a best-of-seven series. Boston is staring at a 2-1 hole and, if adjustments aren't made, the Celtics won't be watching film much longer.
How bad was their defense? Simply put: The Celtics gave up 153 points combined in victories in Games 1 and 2 of their first-round series against the Heat. If LeBron James (38 points) had played all 48 minutes Friday night, the Cavaliers might have matched that number.
It was so bad that the 29-point margin represented the worst home playoff loss in Celtics history.
Like an embarrassing home video, Rivers will force his troops to watch how James shredded the Boston defense to the tune of 21 first-quarter points, single-handedly outscoring the Celtics in that opening frame, during which the visitors built a 19-point lead.
Boston never got closer than 15 the rest of the way.
Ray Allen already knows the lesson he'll take from it, even if he doesn't particularly care to watch the film.
"There's nothing that I can look at or take from it," said Allen. "Obviously, I can take the lack of aggression that we had on the floor tonight. I'll take that and say, Sunday, we have to be the bulldozer."
On Friday, the bulldozer got steamrolled. What's worse, that bulldozer had a full head of steam after Boston's own lopsided win in Game 2 in Cleveland.
That momentum and confidence got pancaked so thin, it's probably seeping into the ice below the parquet floor.
Celtics Opponents in the Half Court
If the Celtics have any intention of advancing to the Eastern Conference finals, they will need to revert back to playing championship-caliber defense. Entering Friday, the Celtics were allowing 85 points for every 100 half-court plays in the playoffs, which was second-fewest to the Magic (84 points). In Game 3, the Celtics were torched by the Cavaliers, allowing 114 points on 89 half-court plays.
|Stat||1st 7 Games||Game 3 vs. CLE|
|Pts per play||0.85||1.28<<|
Plays = total number of FGA, TO, and trips to the free throw line, except for plus-1 trips to the line
"I think we let our guard down," said Pierce. "I think when you come home and you have Game 3 in your home building after taking care of business on the road, you gotta come out with a better sense of urgency. You gotta know the Cleveland Cavaliers are gonna come in here with all the urgency in the world. They took the fight to us early and we didn't respond to it.
"It started from the beginning. It's going to be a long series. Hopefully we can bounce back. Terrible loss -- it was embarrassing to tell you the truth. It's embarrassing when you lose at home like that. So we definitely got our work cut out for us."
Pierce went so far as to suggest that players were angry about Friday's loss, even if they looked more shell-shocked than anything in the postgame locker room.
"A lot of guys were mad," said Pierce. "But you don't get this game back, so it's up to us to get a good practice in tomorrow and bounce back Sunday."
For a team prone to stinkers on its home court this season, the Celtics couldn't even dub Friday's game as "shocking." Allen admitted as much when asked if that was the proper adjective for the loss.
"Stunning? I don't know if that's right word," said Allen. "I don't know what the word is."
Pathetic? Uninspired? We can bust out the thesaurus.
To be fair, Boston played hard in spurts. But even when the Celtics were good they were bad. Here's a microcosm of Friday night's loss:
Cleveland's Antawn Jamison drove to the basket in the third quarter and Kendrick Perkins hustled over for help defense and produced a monster block. As the ball bounced toward the sideline, Perkins hustled after and kept it alive while tumbling into the first row.
Trouble was the save went right to Jamison, who produced an uncontested layup for an 86-58 lead with 4:34 to go in the frame.
"We had a lack of focus," said Perkins. "Guys weren't in the right spots offensively and defensively. They outworked us tonight."
Now the Celtics will be put to work Saturday. Only the fact that Sunday's Game 4 (ABC, 3:30 p.m.) is a quick turnaround might save them from a rigorous practice in the vein of the two-hour marathon they endured after a Game 4 loss to Miami in the last round.
The Celtics are hoping Rivers changes his mind about a video session. Maybe he'll review the game tape on his own in the wee hours of Saturday morning and will spare his team. He's done it before.
The Celtics endured a head-shaking overtime loss to the Houston Rockets back on April 2 and showed up ready to labor through film study the next day. Instead, when the video session started, it was the Cavaliers -- Boston's next opponent -- they were watching.
Don't expect them to be so lucky Saturday.
"You don't throw it out," said Rivers. "I wish you could, but you can't. In the regular season you throw it out because you play somebody else the next day. In the playoffs you don't."
Once you eliminate the commercials, those 153 minutes of film can probably be viewed in under an hour. But that's unlikely to take much of the sting out of what the Celtics will see.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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