Friday night came down to a nail biter in Boston, in what is becoming classic Celtics versus LeBron James fashion. James got the best of the C’s this time around, though, as Rajon Rondo was unable to get a shot off for the win before the fourth quarter buzzer.
The Cavaliers got the victory, 122-121, behind 41 points from James. It was confusing as to why Rondo seemed to dribble the clock out to end the game on a possession that the Celtics had seven seconds to create something, and the crowd seemed to notice.
The win for the Cavs now puts them above .500 (4-3) as the Celtics now drop down to 3-5 on the season.
Here are five takeaways from the loss:
BOSTON STILL DOES NOT LIKE LEBRON JAMES
The Celtics were the home team, but the loudest noises from the crowd came for James. Some cheered, many booed, but the electricity in the building was apparent.
For every missed shot, every time he complained to the refs, every turnover he had and every foul he committed, the Boston fans rejoiced ‘ even during a 41-point effort. Returning to Cleveland redeemed James’ likeability in the eyes of many, but not at the TD Garden.
THE PACE WAS RAPID
Did the final score give it away?
If you like up-and-down basketball, you would have enjoyed this game. The pace seemed to play into the Celtics’ favor aside from James’ ability to get out in transition. But even he missed two contested layups on fast breaks in the first half alone.
The Celtics pushed the tempo the entire game, and were almost rewarded. Rajon Rondo was the head of the monster, finishing with 16 assists on the night (the first one being a milestone that we’ll get to later).
However, the pace slowed down in the fourth quarter and was a huge part of why the Cavs were able to come away victorious.
THE CELTICS BLEW THE GAME OPEN IN THE THIRD QUARTER ‘ ONLY TO GIVE IT RIGHT BACK IN THE FOURTH
This was a game that was tied up 59-59 at halftime. At the end of the third quarter the Celtics held a lead of 101-84. Impressively, Friday was the second time this season that the Celtics have scored 101 points through just three quarters (opening night being the other instance).
Jared Sullinger and Olynyk both scored in double figures in the third period alone, putting up 11 and 10 points respectively. Maybe even more remarkable were Rondo’s nine assists in the third quarter, to go along with a floater off the glass with just 0.4 seconds remaining on the clock to get the Celtics over the 100-point mark.
But the Cavs were just that much better in the fourth period, outscoring the Celtics 38-20 and coming away with the win. James had 10 points in the quarter, but it was Kevin Love‘s free throw that mad the difference in the game.
THE CELTICS CAN COMPETE WITH ANY TEAM
The Celtics were able to open up a nine point lead in the first frame ‘ fast starts have been a theme for them at home ‘ but this was a game all the way through. Even Boston blew their third quarter advantage; they still showed that they belonged on the court with Cleveland.
The C’s suffered their worst loss of the early season on Wednesday to the Thunder, but games like Friday prove that they are by no means a team that is going to lay down and accept losses like they may have last year.
The Cavs entered Friday’s game at only 3-3, but their talent is and was undeniable on the floor. The Celtics were almost the better team on this night, and as the season goes on, can expect to find themselves in these situations again.
RONDO PASSED PAUL PIERCE ON THE CELTICS’ ALL-TIME ASSIST LIST
Pierce and Rondo entered the night tied for fourth place on the list with 4,305 assists apiece. Early in the first quarter, Rondo dished out his first helper to Kelly Olynyk, putting him in sole possession on fourth place.
Having the fourth most assists for many franchises can be a meaningless stat, but that’s not the case when you pass a player like Pierce to move behind Larry Bird, John Havlicek and Bob Cousy.
Bird’s 5,695 are a ways away, but Rondo’s 16 dimes on the night are a start at chasing down the legend.