Celtics Overtime is a postgame feature providing extra news, notes and analysis from each game. Boston was defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers, 88-87, on Sunday night at TD Garden.
Kyrie Irving looked more like a 10-year veteran than a rookie playing in his 19th career game on Sunday night. Irving finished with a game-high 24 points, including the game-winning layup with 2.6 seconds left, and has six assists and four rebounds to lead the Cavs past the Celtics in stunning fashion.
Irving took control in the fourth, scoring eight points on 3-of-4 shooting in six minutes. The Cavaliers erased a 70-62deficit after three quarters by outscoring Boston 26-17 in the final twelve minutes to capture win No. 8 of the season.
Needless to say, it was an ugly loss. In the end, here's what it came down to.
SLOPPY EXECUTION COSTS BOSTON IT'S WINNING STREAK
Fifty percent shooting is something any team should strive for, and both the Celtics and Cavaliers notched that goal in the first half on 19-of-38 shooting. Oddly, the Celtics' shooting got even better in the final half as they made 54.8 percent of their field goals while holding Cleveland to 36.6 percent shooting. Alas, both scored 44 in the final half, and the Celtics couldn't hold their advantage over one of the league's basement dwellers.
"It's funny, we shot 52 percent and the entire game I thought offensively we were sloppy," said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. "I thought we were in the home-run pass mode instead of making simple passes and then I thought there were times when the ball stuck. I told out guys at halftime, 'We're shooting 50 percent and that's the worst 50 percent shooting team I've ever seen. I mean, that's not how we play. And we've been playing so well."
Turnovers also hurt the Celtics, who finished with 16 giveaways -- six of which came in the final quarter. Paul Pierce, who scored 18 points, was the turnover king in this one, leading all players with six turnovers. Go figure, Doc wasn't happy.
"I thought he did too much with the ball; it's just that simple," Rivers said about Pierce. "He's been playing great for us. And I thought he just predetermined some passes instead of just making the simple play."
CAVALIERS SPURRED ON BY HUGE ADVANTAGE IN THE PAINT
It's never good when there's a 22-point advantage in points in the paint, unless you're the team who has more. Sadly, the Celtics were not on Sunday. Cleveland badly bruised the C's under the bucket, outscoring them 54-32. This was due in part to the Cavs' 11-5 advantage on the offensive glass helped them finish with an 11-6 edge in second-chance points.
"They did. Four of them were on the ground. You know what I mean?" Rivers said about the Cavs' stretches of offensive rebounds. So to me, that's what I meant by the 50/50 game. They count as offensive rebounds. I'm going to say three-to-four for sure were balls that were laying on the ground; long rebounds that someone has to get and we should have to get one of them. You would think. And we didn't. But I also think it's difficult when you have kind of turned it off. They're going to make the effort plays, and I thought that's what happened. We had Pau definitely get fouled, Ray [Allen] misses a layup - we had a lot of thing that could've gone right. But to me, I always jokingly talk about the basketball gods; when you don't take care of the game, things come back to haunt you. And I thought it did tonight."
CELTICS HAD NO ANSWER FOR KYRIE IRVING IN SECOND HALF
Kyrie Irving is good. We've already established that. But Irving was totally in control during the time he was on the court in the second half. He had 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting while dishing out two assists and grabbing four rebounds.
"He did a great job," Cavs head coach Byron Scott said about Irving. "Put the ball in his hands the last play of the game, told him we wanted him to go at about seven seconds. I didn't want to go quick, I wanted to go for the win and he was able to get to the basket."
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Celtics knew Irving would have the ball in the end.
"Oh yeah. Yeah pretty sure," Rivers said. "And the reason that Kyrie's so food is the play was for him to make a play. Whether that be by shooting the ball or making a pass. And he pretty much makes good decisions. I thought he dominated the fourth quarter. He single-handedly in my opinion willed that win for them."
BOTTOM LINE: The Celtics screwed up. Really, there's not much more than that. This was a winnable game, one that Boston had in its grasp with five minutes to spare. But they got content and lazy. The end result? A bad, bad loss.
NEXT UP: Wouldn't you know it -- the Celtics face these same Cavaliers. Boston travels to Cleveland for a rematch of Sunday's debacle. Knowing this group, you can bet this embarrassing set back will not happen again. Seriously, it won't.