The Celtics came into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference 5.5 point underdogs according to SportsInsights.com. They probably could have done without the decimal point.

The Celtics were once again no match for LeBron James and the Cavs (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics were once again no match for LeBron James and the Cavs (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics came into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference 5.5 point underdogs according to SportsInsights.com. They probably could have done without the decimal point.

Heading into Friday night, the consensus was that while the Celtics would have a hard time finding a way to beat the Cavaliers, it couldn’t possibly be as bad their Game 1 blowout loss to Cleveland. That would have been correct. It was much worse.

But what the Cavaliers’ 130-86 win over the Celtics did do was leave no mystery to what we have hear.

Game 1 wasn’t lopsided because of a lack of rest for the Celtics. This wasn’t about finding the right player to guard LeBron James. And identifying the right starting lineup really shouldn’t have been of any concern.

This is all about one supremely talented team, and once-in-a-lifetime player, living at a level the gritty, gutty, up-and-coming Celtics can’t approach.

The Cavaliers haven’t lost a postseason game this year for a reason, and it’s not because of who they are playing. Watching them dismantle the Celtics in Game 2 — having carried a 72-31 lead at halftime — this is simply shaping up as one of the best NBA teams we’ve seen in some time. And this is not a Celtics team that is quite yet built to take on such a potentially historic opponent.

Sure, we now know Isaiah Thomas is banged up, having sat out the second half with a strained right hip. And the Celtics certainly did themselves no favors by shooting 26 percent from the floor in the first half while Cleveland was clocking in at 59 percent. But really none of that mattered.

LeBron is simply dominating each and every game in ways we haven’t seen in years and years, and maybe ever. He does anything and everything against anybody he wants. Guards, forward, and even centers. Watching Friday night, it’s really hard to remember anybody who is doing what he is doing.

And then you throw in players Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, JR Smith, Tristan Thompson, Kyle Korver and Deron Williams and you have a team that sure looks ready to beat the team everybody thought was unbeatable, Golden State.

After the Celtics closed the gap to 11-10, it was sad trombone time from there for a TD Garden crowd that so desperately wanted to remember the good times of Monday and Tuesday. It just wasn’t happening.

Markelle Fultz, Jimmy Butler and Paul George combined probably wouldn’t have beaten this team Friday night. And that was the kind of reality check even the most cautious Celtics couldn’t have seen coming.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Something was certainly wrong with the Celtics Friday night. And, as it turned out, there was something also amiss when it came to their star.

After scoring just two points, going 0-for-6 from the floor, in a horrific first half of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals for the Celtics, Thomas didn’t make an appearance for the final two quarters.

Something was certainly wrong with the Celtics Friday night. And, as it turned out, there was something also amiss when it came to their star.

After scoring just two points, going 0-for-6 from the floor, in a horrific first half of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals for the Celtics, Thomas didn’t make an appearance for the final two quarters.

Thomas finished the first half having played 17 minutes, totaling an incredibly bad minus-32. He was just part of the problem for the Celtics, who went into halftime trailing the Cavaliers 72-31, having shot just 27 percent from the floor.

After closing the gap to within a point, 11-10, on a pair of Thomas free throws, the Cavaliers went on a 61-21 run to finish off the first half.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

David Price finally faced hitters on Friday, and it didn’t go smoothly.

Pitching in Buffalo for Triple-A Pawtucket, the former Cy Young Award winner was knocked out after just two innings and 65 pitches. He allowed five hits and three runs, including a homer. He walked one and struck out four.

Jaylen Brown could have an increased role in Game 2. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Jaylen Brown could have an increased role in Game 2. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

If the Celtics were looking for a bright spot from their 117-104 defeat at the hands of the Cavaliers in Game 1, it came with the performance of the 20-year-old Jaylen Brown. 

In 19 minutes off the bench, Brown was the C’s most effective shooter, with makes on all but two of his seven shots (10 points), and paced all Celtics with nine rebounds. It’s the impact that could and should lead to a greater role in what feels like a must-win Game 2.

Especially if the Celtics are serious about trying to find ways to stop LeBron James, who torched the club for 38 points in 41 minutes. 

“We’ve got to help each other, we’ve got to have each other’s backs a little bit more,” Brown said of the plan against James. “He got to the paint, and I think he wanted to establish himself in the paint. We’ve got to do a better job of letting him see people in there and having more help defense. He’s a good player, but we’ve got to come out and make it more tough than we did last game.”

Of course, asking a player that was in high school just two years ago to stop the best player in the world seems like a tall, borderline ridiculous, task, but it’s one that Brown himself has felt ready for based on his personal expectations. 

“It’s kind of crazy thinking like how I was just in high school two years ago, now I’m here playing in the Eastern Conference Finals against the defending champs, so it’s kind of cool,” Brown said, who later mentioned that he would have believed it back then had you told him that he would playing in the Eastern Conference Finals as an NBA rookie. 

“You never know when your name is going to be called, and just how to win, the little things that go into winning,” Brown, one of just three Celtics players (Gerald Green and James Young were the others) with a plus rating in Game 1, said. “I think that learning that early as opposed to learning that late has helped me out in my career, people like Gerald Green who has been in my ear from the beginning, he’s been in the league a lot and he’s been in the league, out of the league, but he’s always made an effort to come talk to me, and he’s been a perfect example for me, so I learned a lot from him about how to be ready and how to take advantage of every situation because you don’t know how situations might end up.”

So, what changes will Brad Stevens make when given the James on Brown — or anybody else, for that matter — matchup?

“We just have to make it as difficult as possible as a group,” said Stevens. 

“I think once you take up space and [James] beats you by a step, he sprays it to a wide-open shooter. I think there are a lot of things that I think sound good in theory,” the C’s coach continued. “I just think we have to do our best to mix it up appropriately without overdoing it, and make sure that we try our best to keep him in front. Obviously, if we want to keep him in front, we don’t want him shooting layups — like probably you’re thinking Jae [Crowder] with the downhill drives. We had a few that I thought he made great shots where we actually guarded him pretty well. But at the end of the day, that’s all easier said and done.”

“All I can do is be ready,” noted Brown. “That’s my job, to play basketball, so I’m just going to be ready if Coach calls me.

“This is the biggest game of my career, and I’m ready to step up to the challenge.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Isaiah Thomas has been named to the All-NBA Second Team. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas has been named to the All-NBA Second Team. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Thomas may have been named to the All-NBA Second Team on Thursday, but the chip on his shoulder is still All-NBA First Team.

“What do you think?” Thomas said when asked if he should have made the All-NBA First Team. “No, it don’t seem right [not making it]. But I’m blessed, man. I’m appreciative. It’s been a pretty good year for my team and for myself individually, so I mean, that kind of stuff goes to my teammates and this organization.”

“What we’ve all learned about Isaiah is all the different things that he can do. I think that it’s so much at this level about finding the right guys for the right groups, and he fits perfect with our guys,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “They need what he does well. He needs what they do well. But he’s put in a lot of work.

“He’s as consistent and hard of a worker as I’ve ever been around.”

But Thomas finishing as the third-best is in line with his season. 

His 28.9 points per game ranked as the third-most in the NBA this season, behind OKC’s Russell Westbrook’s league-leading 31.6 points per night and Houston guard James Harden’s 29.1 per night. Harden, by the way, finished with a perfect 500 points on his ballot, named to the All-NBA First Team on all 100 ballots, while Westbrook was named to the First Team on 99 ballots. Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the season, and Harden’s perhaps the best pure scorer in today’s game. 

So it was on the Second Team that Thomas, whose fourth quarter performances became the stuff of legend this season, landed, with Warriors guard Steph Curry, forward Kevin Durant, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, and Pelicans center Anthony Davis.

It’s some truly elite company that the 5-foot-9 Thomas always believed he could be part of, too. 

“I always knew I could do what I’m doing right now, but that was just proving to other people. I mean, it says a lot, but I want to be so much better,” Thomas, the 60th overall pick from his draft class, said. “I’ve got so much more room for improvement in so many areas. That was definitely a goal of mine, and we got it. Now it’s on to bigger and better things.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a reminder that the Celtics are still at least one superstar piece away from competing with LeBron James and the Cavaliers for the East’s crown. 

Jimmy Butler has long been rumored as a trade target for the Celtics. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Jimmy Butler has long been rumored as a trade target for the Celtics. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a reminder that the Celtics are still at least one superstar piece away from competing with LeBron James and the Cavaliers for the East’s crown. 

They have the assets to make it happen, too. 

But don’t expect a massive C’s trade to come this summer, at least based on the latest report from The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski

“I think with Boston and L.A. getting No. 1 and No. 2, I think it makes it highly unlikely that Butler and George are involved in trades with those two teams,” Wojnarowski said when asked about ‘big moves’ from the Celtics and Lakers. “Danny Ainge at No. 1 now, with Jimmy Butler, they dealt with this at the trade deadline last spring.”

As alluded to, the Celtics have rumored to be in on Butler for years now, but Ainge’s hesitancy to pull the trigger on any Butler deal likely comes back to what’s considered their big summertime plans in free agency.

“Boston is really focused on trying to get Gordon Hayward from Utah in free agency,” Wojnarowski said.

Hayward, by the way, are now unable to sign a ‘mega max deal’ with the Jazz (five-year, $207 million), as he was left off an All-NBA team. The same goes for Indiana’s Paul George, a player that the rebuilding Lakers seem to believe they can land in 2018, either via a trade or as a free agent. Those misses for the Jazz and Pacers seem to be gains for either the Celtics or Lakers, too.

“Why trade assets to get Butler when you think you might have a chance at Hayward in the summer where they have the cap space to sign him in and you don’t have to trade anything?” Wojnarowski noted. “Boston could possibly know closer to the draft where they stand with Hayward, but I think Danny Ainge has not gone ‘all in’ with this group yet. And having the No. 1 pick this year, and potentially the No. 1 overall pick again next year with Brooklyn’s pick again, he doesn’t have to take that kind of a risk.

“I think Boston preserves its cap space and goes really hard after Hayward on July 1.”

Hayward, 27, averaged a career-high 21.9 points per game this season. 

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The reigning NBA champion Cavaliers toyed with the Celtics in last night’s 117-104 final at TD Garden. It, at times, looked like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon, with the C’s playing the role of Wile E.