The Celtics are quickly growing tired of talking about blowing big leads. It’s hard to blame them. But the painful truth is that it’s an ongoing trend that’s obvious to anyone watching them play early on in the 2014-15 season.

And it’s been a trend from the start. Against Brooklyn in the season opener, they led 101-72 after three quarters. Brooklyn closed it to 15 before holding off the Nets. Still, they were outscored 33-20 in the fourth and gave up 64 second-half points. It may not have been a concern at the time in a one-game sample. But it’s turned into a troubling trend.

Against the Bulls in Chicago, they led 83-67 after three. They held on for dear life for a 106-101 win. But on Wednesday against the Thunder, it finally caught up with them. The Celtics raced out to an 18-3 lead and led, 51-42, at the half. They were outscored 67-43 in the second half and lost. Friday night, they had their biggest lead going into the fourth quarter, 101-84 against King James and the Cavs. They were outscored 38-20 in the fourth. Against the Nets, Thunder and Cavaliers, they have given up 64, 67, and 63 points, respectively in the second half, losing the last two.

The Celtics are learning that there’s no better way to blow big leads than playing porous defense.

“I’€™m frustrated by it,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I want to be better at it. I thought our energy and togetherness and sustainability was much better [against Cleveland]. When things went south, we came back. They went up by three; we ended up tying the game. Jeff made a great hustle play to get the free throws. You know if you turned on the TV last night you saw it in at least two games, maybe three ‘€“ and that happens. You’€™ve got to play all 48. You’€™ve got to be great all 48 against this team. And it’€™s not the same against everybody, but you still have to be on your A-game the whole time.’€

‘€œWe just got to win games, point blank, we just got to win,” Jared Sullinger added. “There’€™s no more lessons, no more moral victories, we just got to win flat out. Kyrie [Irving] made some shots, LeBron made some shots; that’€™s what great players do. There’€™s no answers we just got to win. In the NBA, no 15, 20-point lead is safe. You just have to keep playing.”

What’s missing at the end?

“I think the energy, the pop that we have normally when we’€™re playing well we have a lot of energy,” Sullinger said. “They had a couple shots our energy gets down a little bit. We just got to have that pop.”

Rajon Rondo was somewhat more analytical.

“Just to stay in our defensive intensity throughout the 48 [minutes],” Rondo said. “I don’€™t think we get comfortable. It’s just when teams are desperate they are going to make shots, they are going to make plays and they got us on the hill and we weren’€™t able to get consecutive stops.”

Rondo admitted frustrations are starting to mount.

“It’€™s a competitive sport,” he said. “We’€™re human so obviously we are little frustrated, we’€™re very frustrated, but we got a lot more games to play. We’€™ve been in every game this season, except for the Houston game I believe, we made a great run against Dallas but we go out every night and we play as hard as we possibly can. We’€™re just not coming up with the wins right now.

“It’s not difficult. I think for us when we get stops we’€™re good offensively. When we don’€™t come down, we get stagnant, our offense isn’€™t as fluid as what we would like it to be as far as we did in the first 3 quarters. We are a team with defensive stops and if we can get those then obviously we are more comfortable on the offensive end of the floor.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The immediate reaction by most Friday night was to blame Rajon Rondo for dribbling out the clock and not getting a shot off, the appropriate ending to a self-destruction at the hands of LeBron James and the Cavaliers in a 122-121 loss at TD Garden.

But to the cerebral Brad Stevens, there was much more to his star player not getting up a shot down a point with the game in the balance.

With seven seconds left, coming out of a timeout, Stevens watched as the Cavaliers and James took away the number one option in Jeff Green, forcing Kelly Olynyk to inbound to Jared Sullinger. The big man then dumped it to Rajon Rondo, who was fighting to get free from rookie Joe Harris. The Cavaliers switched Harris off a screen and Shawn Marion was on Rondo for the final four seconds. Then Rondo lost control before dribbling out the clock, firing up an off-balance attempt a full second after time expired.

“Well, we had a couple of different options,” Stevens said. “We had Jeff over the top, which I’€™d have to look at the film to see if he had LeBron sealed for a lob. Obviously, it’€™s a little bit riskier of a pass, but we had just thrown it to Jared and then we just had a simple swing to Rondo and our desire was to reject the screen. And he had a good match-up, but Joe Harris did a nice job on him, and we didn’€™t get a shot off.

“Rondo isolated on a rookie on the right wing. I felt pretty good when he got the ball reversed to him. Again, give Joe Harris a lot of credit. He did a great job on that possession. We were trying to space and rip and drive and play. I told Rondo those plays start with me. I’ll be responsible for that one.”

Rondo wasn’t making excuses.

“I lost the ball,” he said. “I lost the ball, I give them credit they played good defense. I lost the ball and I didn’€™t get the shot off in time. It’€™s a competitive sport. We’€™re human so obviously we are little frustrated, we’€™re very frustrated, but we got a lot more games to play.”

That wasn’t the only regrettable play for Stevens and his Celtics in the final minute.

“The time before we actually had a play drawn up if we would’€™ve gotten a stop, to try to get to the rim,” Stevens said. “Rondo was able to turn the corner and James did a nice job of staying with him, and we went a little early. We were a little rushed. We weren’€™t where we were supposed to be when it all started. And we’€™ve got to continue to get better in those moments, but I think there are a lot of possessions you can point to in this game, and that’€™s a tough one to lose.”

What also shouldn’t be forgotten in Friday’s meltdown was the fact that the Celtics led, 101-84, heading into the final quarter. They were outscored 38-20 in the final 12 minutes. Helping Cleveland’s cause was the fact that the Celtics committed five fouls in the first three minutes, 20 seconds of the fourth, putting the Cavaliers in the penalty for the rest of the game.

“[That made it] really hard. Obviously, you don’t want to foul that much early,” Stevens said. “It made it difficult because every time they got fouled on the floor or the shot, they were shooting obviously.

“I’€™m frustrated by it. I want to be better at it. I thought our energy and togetherness and sustainability was much better tonight. When things went south, we came back. They went up by three; we ended up tying the game. Jeff made a great hustle play to get the free throws. You know if you turned on the TV last night you saw it in at least two games, maybe three ‘€“ and that happens. You’€™ve got to play all 48. You’€™ve got to be great all 48 against this team. And it’€™s not the same against everybody, but you still have to be on your A-game the whole time.”

Stevens’ message to his team afterward?

“One point not good enough,” he said. “It is what it is. There’€™s no moral victories, we can’€™t talk about learning. We’€™ve got to just get better. We’€™ve got to do it. And I think that that’€™s where we all are. We can’€™t get frustrated with it, we can’€™t lose sight of the fact that we’€™re eight games in and not 70 games in, but the good news is there is a belief growing, but it’€™s got to be rounded out.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

After escaping Boston with a 122-121 win over the Celtics, Cavaliers superstar and four-time NBA MVP LeBron James had high praise for coach Brad Stevens & Co. after his 41-point performance.

“œThey’€™re going to surprise a lot of teams, and they’€™re better than what the critics said coming into this season,”€ said James. “€œCoach Stevens has done a great job of putting a system in there that allows everyone to feel comfortable, to feel loose and play a great style of basketball. They’€™re top three in the league in assists; they’€™re top three in the league in scoring right now. It’€™s a great brand of basketball.”€

For more on Friday night’s game, read how the Celtics are beating the odds despite the loss.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

Rajon Rondo's Celtics will be chasing LeBron James and the Cavaliers for a while. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)



A Friday night nailbiter became a LeBron James classic against the Celtics, as the superstar led a furious fourth-quarter comeback that was sealed when Rajon Ron

LeBron James scored 41 to lead the Cavaliers' furious fourth-quarter win over the Celtics. (Getty Images)

LeBron James scored 41 to lead the Cavaliers‘ furious fourth-quarter win over the Celtics. (Getty Images)

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.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow
David Blatt is calling the plays for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in his first season. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

David Blatt is calling the plays for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in his first season. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Cavaliers have a lot of newcomers this season.€“ Kevin Love, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones come to mind.

Oh, and LeBron James also decided to return home from Miami, swinging the balance of power in the Eastern Conference in the process.

However, David Blatt may be the newcomer that gets lost in the shuffle. He also happens to be the head coach.

Blatt has a lot to be happy about, considering the greatest played in the world fell into his lap just weeks after earning his first NBA coaching job. But Blatt, a native of Framingham, Mass., had a homecoming of his own on Friday night, along with a chance to face the team he grew up cheering for.

“€œYou’€™ll have to excuse me, I’€™m looking for some familiar faces,”€ Blatt began his pregame press conference.

Blatt admits that the Celtics have held significant meaning to him since he was a young child growing up just 20 minutes away from the Boston Garden.

“œI was a great follower of the Celtics. Bill Russell was my idol, and probably the Celtics‘€™ teams were the reason that I fell in love with basketball the way that I did,”€ Blatt proclaimed with a smile from ear to ear.

So what has it been like for someone with no NBA experience to be handed the job of coaching James? Well, Blatt went as far as to compare LeBron to one of his own childhood idols.

“€œPleasurable,” € the coach said, and with no signs of losing his grin. “Fabulous talent, great basketball IQ. A guy, who like Bill Russell, is about the right things. About winning, about making his teammates around him better, about taking responsibility, about being accountable. He’€™s a man who respects the game and badly, badly wants to win a championship for Cleveland. What’€™s not to like?”

Blatt joked with reporters briefly after his press conference was over, making it clear in the process that he was thrilled to be back in his hometown. The only problem?

“€œI was hoping someone would have brought me some clam chowder,” he quipped.

Blog Author: 
Julian Edlow

Granted Rajon Rondo is a point guard and Paul Pierce a small forward, but the new Celtics captain passed his predecessor for fourth on the team’s career