4/26/2015: Game 4

Cleveland 101 Boston 93

That’s it, folks. It’s been a fun ride, but now it’s over.

Cleveland was firmly in control for the whole first half. In the second, Boston did their best comeback act, but it wasn’t enough. The Cavs led by as many as 21 Points and the Cs managed to cut it to six, but that’s as close as it got.

First, this was not a fun game to watch. I’m all for chippy playoff basketball, but things got out of line.

In the first quarter, Kelly and Kevin Love were fighting for a loose ball. Love had better position, but that didn’t stop Kelly from fouling Love; maybe out of frustration, in order to prevent transition offense, or some combination of the two. Their arms were tangled and Kelly may not have been aware of his own strength. Love dislocated his shoulder, and later said the play was malicious. Kelly had no comment:

What ensued was Cleveland retaliation and plain old dirty basketball. Kendrick Perkins, a former fan favorite in Boston, pushed Jae to the floor by his face and even gave him another slap after he got back up. Amazingly, there was no ejection:

I think I speak for Cs fans everywhere when I say Perk is dead to me.

The second, and more despicable play came in the 3rd Quarter when J.R. Smith punched Jae in the face on a box-out attempt, with Jae spraining his ACL upon falling to the floor:

After all of this nonsense, the Cs went on a run and nearly climbed back into the game, but their shooting woes cost them any last chance. When the final buzzer sounded, Boston was 3/23 from long distance and 24/37 at the Free Throw line. Their defense was insufficient, with a combined 5 Steals and Blocks. Cleveland had 18. The Cs turned the ball over 14 times, and the Cavs only 8.

Plain and simple, Boston was overmatched in this series. LeBron and Kyrie did the bulk of Cleveland’s heavy-lifting, especially in the 4th Quarter, staving off any Celtic runs. Boston doesn’t have anyone to fill this void for them. Isaiah and Sully each had 21 Points, but Isaiah’s came on 4/17 Shooting (he was 12/12 from the line), and Sully doesn’t score 20 Points consistently enough.

I’m still extremely proud of this season. The Cs shattered everyone’s expectations, including my own, and never let Cleveland blow them out. The supporting cast is in place. Now, all they need is an All-Star to get them over the hump.

Expect Danny and Brad to start off-season preparations immediately. Heading into Brad’s third year on the job, they’ll both have strong ideas about how to take the next step towards winning 50 games. The Cs still have a boatload of draft picks, including two Firsts and a very early 2nd this year. They also have a slew of young talent. All that happens now is Trader Danny sits back and waits for the right opportunity.

It was painful to get swept by LeBron and friends, but it was necessary in that it highlights the Cs’ most glaring weaknesses. Fans can rest assured knowing the team is in a great position. Even though the season is over, there is tons to look forward to.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Salary Cap Intern for the Boston Celtics. With the 2014-15 season officially over, his focus is on cutting discretionary costs (food, socks, etc.) to better position the Celtics for free agency. His Celtics reactions and number-crunching methods are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

4/23/2015: Game 3

Cleveland 103 Boston 95

Boston absolutely played their hearts out and left everything on the court. Alas, it wasn’t enough.

There was a moment in the 2nd Quarter where Jerebko and Crowder batted around a loose ball while going for a rebound. When it looked like Kevin Love was about to secure it, Crowder wrapped him up for a jump-ball. The crowd rose to their feet and cheered deafeningly. That was the hustle Brad has continuously implored them to play with.

Yet for all of the moments like this one, Cleveland still managed to hit every timely shot, whether it was a twisting J.R. Smith fadeaway, or one of Kevin Love’s 6 three-pointers.

There isn’t much to dwell on. Cleveland simply has more talent. Kyrie did not play well (13 Points on 3/11), but J.R. did (15 Points on 6/12). When one option is lacking, there are plenty of other options for the Cavs. J.R. hadn’t shown up in the previous two games, but he did in this one, no doubt messing up the gameplan.

Isaiah is seemingly the only offensive threat the Cs can bank on to show up. Unfortunately, he mustered only 5 Points on 2/9. Avery had 18 Points, albeit on 7/18. E.T. was the lone bright spot, dropping 19 (8/15), 8 Rebounds and 8 Assists.

Each game, the Cs take another step forward against this powerhouse Cavs team, yet the Cavs ALWAYS respond. It’s maddening to watch, and it must eat at the players. To see such effort translate into nothing is incredibly disappointing.

The Cs get a little extra rest before Game 4 on Sunday. I have no doubt Brad is going to motivate the guys and they will show up. Now, it’s simply a matter of continuing the aforementioned trend of building upon each game. and taking yet another step.

Whatever happens, Boston will not roll over. They will scratch and claw until this series ends, no matter the outcome.

Sunday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Social Media Extraordinaire for the Boston Celtics. He has two cell phones, two computers and numerous Twitter handles for himself and players alike. His Celtics reactions and Twitter info are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

4/21/2015: Game 2

Cleveland 99 Boston 91

Boston did a nice job of staying in this one longer in than they did in Game 1. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t enough. LeBron and Kyrie dominated again, while Mozgov continues to overpower Boston’s bigs.

Boston shot only 38.8%, but there is a silver lining: they were 33/85 from the field, while Cleveland was 34/76. Had a few of those extra shots fallen, maybe we’re looking at a different outcome. The Cavs played far better defense (7 Steals and 10 Blocks to Boston’s six and three), but Boston had better ball security, with 11 Turnovers to Cleveland’s 18. Both teams committed 22 Fouls, and Cleveland made/attempted only two more Free Throws than the Cs.

All of that jargon should point to the fact that Boston sufficiently revised the gameplan from Game 1 to Game 2. Cleveland is just too damn good.

Once again, Isaiah led the way with 22 Points and 7 Assists. Unfortunately, he isn’t getting much help. Four other guys scored in double-figures, and Sully had the second-most points with 14. Avery is now 6/19 through these first two games. Sure, the shots will fall eventually, but defense alone is not counterbalancing LeBron and Kyrie. Someone, anyone, needs to step up in Game 3 to alleviate some of the scoring pressure on Isaiah.

Boston was up by as many as nine before Cleveland came charging back, so they’re headed in the right direction. Now, they’ll have the luxury of playing in Boston for these next two. My hope is that the rest of the guys who are capable of scoring do so without sacrificing the defense. The improvements over Game 1 were apparent.

Celtics beat writer Ben Rohrbach wisely used Sisyphus as a metaphor for the work Brad has done this season. Let’s hope the Cs once again build upon the progress they continue to make.

Game 3 on Thursday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and adjunct literature professor for the Boston Celtics. Every day, the players are given excerpts from famous speeches to be used as motivation. His Celtics reactions and list of speeches used are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

4/19/2015: Game 1

Cleveland 113 Boston 100

And so it begins. Boston actually led after the 1st Quarter, but it didn’t take long for Kyrie and LeBron to take matters into their own hands. Kyrie made his first five three-pointers and finished with 30 Points.

All things considered, it could have been worse for Boston. The Cavs were just slightly better for the whole 48 Minutes. Both teams made 37 Field Goals, and the defensive stats were similar. Cleveland dominated on the boards though (46-34), and drew more shooting fouls than Boston, resulting in more free throws.

It’s no secret, Boston has their hands full. Cleveland’s roster is absolutely stocked with talent, but the Cs are unwavering. Kelly and Evan finished with 12 Points, while Bass, Marcus and Jae each had 10. Isaiah was the leader with a very glossy statline: 22 Points, 10 Assists, 5 Rebounds and a Steal on 6/14 Shooting, including a perfect 8/8 from the line.

The Cs are going to have to make some adjustments for the next game. Namely, they need to figure out how to combat Cleveland’s size. Their victory on the boards is a telling statistic; Boston has no answer. They’re going to have to keep driving to the hoop, and they’ll need to keep taking shots from distance. Save for a few timely shots, Boston was very much in this game for the bulk of the time.

If Game 1 was any indication, a Boston victory is going to be tough, but certainly within the realm. I have faith in Brad to adjust the gameplan accordingly. For now, tighten up on D and get more aggressive on offense.

Game 2 on Tuesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and motivational speaker for the Boston Celtics. Every halftime, he speaks to the team on behalf of the fans. His Celtics reactions and halftime speeches archive are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

4/15/2015: Game 82

Boston 105 Milwaukee 100

What a way to end the season. The Cs now head into the playoffs winners of six in a row, with a record of 24-12 in their last 36.

Both the Cs and Bucks had outlandish Assist numbers: Boston had 37 and Milwaukee tallied 35. Surprisingly, Phil Pressey led the team off the bench with 7, while Marcus and E.T. each had 6.

Being the final game of the season, Brad told reporters yesterday that he would go deep into the bench. Not deep enough to give Chris Babb any floor time, but my man James Young played 24 Minutes. He finished with 9 Points on 3/7 Shooting. Zeller, Bass and Turner didn’t surpass 20 Minutes, while the guy who was out there the longest (Sullinger) only played 28.

Gigi Datome led all scorers (yeah, that’s right) with 22 Points on a sharp 9/15 clip. He was flanked by the trio of bench bigs, Kelly (16), Jonas (16) and Sully (11). Sully’s biggest contribution, though, was his uncharacteristic 3 Blocks, surely a welcome sign heading into the postseason.

I could delve deeper into this game, but I’m not going to. The best players for both teams hardly played, and there was nothing at stake for either squad.

At this time last year, the Celtics ended their season 25-57, with dark clouds hanging all around. It was hard to be optimistic at the start of this season, and when Avery Bradley steadfastly declared playoffs as the goal for the team, it seemed implausible.

We’ve witnessed a dramatic change in culture amongst the Boston Celtics. Brad has everyone drinking his Kool-Aid, and any lingering pessimism from last season got checked at the door. The Celtics are well ahead in their rebuild, and now they’re headed to the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder. Hardly anyone expects them to get past Cleveland, but they’re confident.

Regardless of what happens next, it feels great knowing that 14 teams’ seasons are over, and the Cs aren’t one of them.

Game 1 on Sunday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Chairman of the Boston Celtics’ Department of Excellence. He has been working overtime since February. His Celtics reactions and Certificate in Excellence Training are accessible right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

4/14/2015: Game 81

Boston 95 Toronto 93

The Raptors came into this one without Demar Derozan, and at the start of the 3rd Quarter, Avery was ruled out for the remainder of the game with a bruised a quad. Eye for an eye.

Toronto led for much of the first half, and was up 53-47 at halftime. In the 3rd and 4th, the Cs came alive. The game’s waning minutes featured made shots and quick counters by both teams. On two key Raptors possessions, Kyle Lowry went right to the hoop for easy-looking layups.

Then, with 3.5 seconds remaining and the game tied, Brad drew up a play for an unlikely hero:

E.T. then blocked Lowry’s game-winning three-point attempt as time expired.

I couldn’t help but shake my head and hold my hands up in exasperation. Up until that shot, Crowder was 3/8 with 7 Points, 4 Rebounds and 2 Steals. His D had been the only thing going for him, yet Brad still decided to entrust him with the final shot.

Overall, this was a blue collar, grind-it-out game. The Cs shot 38.4% on the night and 22.2% from distance. They had fewer Turnovers than the Raptors (14 – 18), but Toronto played superior defense. It was a playoff atmosphere, and all 48 minutes were needed to decide a winner.

There have been more than a few victories just like this one for Boston, including the big layup by Smart against Toronto in their last meeting.

This Celtics team is playing quite similarly to Brad Stevens’ Butler teams that pulled out so many clutch wins in NCAA Tournaments past. The core, plus Brad’s killer instincts have really impacted the Cs’ approach game-by-game.

The Celtics are now locked in as the 7th seed and will face LeBron and Cleveland. Let’s be honest, the cards aren’t exactly stacked in their favor, but if the Cs have proven anything, it’s that they’re resilient and they’re fighters. They refuse to roll over. Beating Cleveland in a 7-game series is extremely difficult, but by no means impossible. Just ask Brad.

How fitting that the Cs’ season ends with a back-to-back. The regular season finale takes place Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Administrative Floater for the Boston Celtics. He does a number of jobs, including coffee runs, equipment cleaning, and data organizing. His Celtics reactions and full job description can be found right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

4/12/2015: Game 80

Boston 117 Cleveland 78

First things first, the Cs are in the playoffs! Brooklyn was just defeated by Chicago, which means Boston is a now a virtual lock. Seeding is the only uncertainty with two games left in the season.

As for the game, Cleveland rested LeBron, Love and J.R. Smith, while Kyrie is still nursing his hip. But a win is a win. Most everyone affiliated with the Cs felt good going into this one, though I doubt anyone expected a 39-Point thrashing.

This one was won on the defensive end. Boston tallied 20 Steals, one shy of a franchise record. Marcus and E.T. each had 4 Steals, and Brad singled out Marcus in particular for his “phenomenal” effort. The Cavs also committed 24 Turnovers, good for 36 Points-Off-of-Turnovers for the Cs.

Seven players scored in double-figures:

  • Isaiah: (17)
  • E.T.: (15)
  • Avery: (12)
  • Sully: (11)
  • Kelly: (10)
  • Jerebko: (10)
  • Zeller: (10)

Sully was an efficient 4/7 in 17 Minutes. Kelly was 4/5 with 7 Rebounds. E.T. filled the statsheet, with 7 Assists and 5 Rebounds. The Cs shot 54.8% from the field and 41.7% from distance. They also had 29 Assists. The defense was the resonating component of the victory, but the offense was equally strong.

After a down year and many pundits projecting only 30 victories, the Cs are back in the postseason and could tally as many as 40 wins by Wednesday.

Everyone deserves credit for this remarkable turnaround: E.T. came to town on a bargain deal, and is exceeding expectations. Isaiah arrived in the waning seconds of the trade deadline and has won Eastern Conference Player of the Week twice. Kelly and Avery took the next steps they were supposed to make. Jae, initially nothing more than trade filler, made a strong first impression. As a rookie, Smart has been one of the best defenders in the league. Everyone has contributed their own personal strengths for the betterment of the team.

But most importantly, Brad is team MVP. His calm, poised demeanor, incredible basketball I.Q. and leadership skills have enabled Boston’s success this season. I firmly believe that no other coach in the league could have achieved production like this from the players on the roster. He absolutely deserves serious consideration for Coach of the Year.

Raise a glass to the Cs on a job well done. The season isn’t over, but they can rest easy knowing more action awaits after Wednesday.

For now, though, Toronto on Tuesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Chief Organizer of the Brad Stevens for President Super PAC. His Celtics reactions and list of Stevens’ political positions can be found right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.