Rajon Rondo fell just two assists shy of a triple-double and the Boston Celtics fought hard all night, but it became apparent in the fourth quarter that the night belonged to the masked man. Kyrie Irving put on a show.
And let’s not act like it’s easy to score 40 points against a backcourt of Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. Irving is a legitimate superstar in the making, and the Cavs are a much better team than their record indicates.
However, the Celtics should not lose to a now 11-32 team. Let’s take a look at the post game grades for the Celtics players and see where things went wrong in the 95-90 loss to the lowly Cavs at “The Q” in Cleveland.
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo did just about everything he could with Kyrie Irving, but there was really no stopping the one-and-done Duke product. Irving hit an array of jumpers, got into the paint, and was just on fire in general all night. It’s a small sample size to start making statements like “Kyrie showed Rondo why he should be starting for the East in the All-Star game,” but it’s definitely an indication that Irving belongs there as a reserve.
Offensively, Rondo had another very strong game, though he did miss 10 of his 17 field goal attempts. Rondo finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. But his strong play wasn’t enough to offset a horrible game by Paul Pierce (more on him later of course).
It’s hard to give Rondo an A when he shot below his average field goal percentage and gave up 40 points, but the man did almost net a trip-dub.
Shooting Guard: Avery Bradley
Avery Bradley continues to make an impact far beyond what the box score tells. Though he shot just four shots, he made two of them and finished with seven points. But Bradley had a number of nice defensive plays, including a shot he pinned on the backboard in the fourth quarter.
Ideally, No. 0 begins to chip in more offensively to take his game to the next level, but his defense has revitalized the C’s and Bradley took Dion Waiters completely out of the game, as the rookie found out what good NBA defense was all about. Waiters shot 3-of-12 from the floor, scoring just seven points, which is half his season average.
Small Forward: Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce appeared to be moving in slow motion the entire night. That helps explain why he had his shot blocked three times and turned it over an additional four. He hit just 3-of-15 from the floor, and save some decent passing (seven assists), he never found his groove the entire game.
It’s a little early to throw in the “Pierce is washed up and done” argument, but if he continues to play like he did tonight, then that has some merit.
After all, players do sometimes mysteriously fall off in mid stream without a steady depreciation in their abilities.
Pierce averaged just 12.3 points per game over the last three heading into tonight’s stinker, so we’re not ruling that out as a possibility. Yes, players do have bad games and even bad stretches of games, but watching Pierce tonight indicated he may be falling off precipitously.
Power Forward: Brandon Bass
Brandon Bass played a quiet and decent game. He hit 4-of-7 from the floor and finished with eight points and seven rebounds. Bass was overshadowed though by Jared Sullinger off the bench (more on Sully later).
It’s hard to call Bass’ game tonight much more than mediocre, considering he did still receive 27 minutes and he also allowed Tristan Thompson of the Cavs to have a rather big night (21 points and nine rebounds).
Grade: C -
Center: Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett struggled with his shot tonight, and wasn’t particularly aggressive on the boards. Tyler Zeller cheated off of Garnett on offense several times to swat shots, and KG didn’t penalize him by cutting back door and finishing hard.
KG should have dominated Zeller tonight, but that wasn’t really the case. Either Zeller is a far better player than most have been led to believe up until this point, or KG just had an off night.
At this point, it’s unclear as to which it was. It’s not that there’s a lot of shame in a 16 points, five rebound night, but KG was up against a rookie, so he should have done a lot more to exploit it. Had this came against Anderson Varejao, he likely would have received a much more favorable grade.
Sixth Man: Jared Sullinger
Sully received the most minutes off the Boston bench tonight, which makes him the honorary sixth man. It’s a role we may see more with Sully starting to come on at a time when most rookies are fading due to the “rookie wall.”
Sullinger had a double-double, but fouled out. He finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds (five offensive) and scored at several points when the C’s were in need of a basket. He’s getting better and better, and that “steal of the draft” label that was thrown around when he fell to the No. 21 overall pick now seems to really be looking as though it is the truth.
Outside of Jared Sullinger, the bench shot 6-of-17 from the floor and grabbed only six rebounds in 54 combined minutes. That’s failing pretty hard, notwithstanding the fact that Courtney Lee played some nice defense for stretches of the game. That’s not going to make up for 3-of-9 shooting, nor for the absent play of Jason Terry and Jeff Green. Leandro Barbosa has fallen entirely out of the rotation and did not play.
Grade: D -