BOSTON — The Celtics gave one of their worst performances of the season Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The new-look Cavs, who did an overhaul of their roster at the trade deadline last week, shot lights out and beat the Celtics 121-99.
Boston falls to 40-18 with the loss, while Cleveland improves to 33-22.
It wasn’t all horrible for C’s fans, though. The Celtics will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after the game.
Here’s how it all went down.
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Al Horford
It felt like an NBA Finals game in TD Garden prior to tip-off. Celtics-Cavs usually brings out the best in the Celtics crowd, but this day was unique because of Pierce’s upcoming ceremony. Tribute videos and Pierce being shown on the JumboTron telling fans to make some noise were among the many things that ratcheted up the intensity at tip off.
Guards George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood, as well as forward Larry Nance Jr. all made their Cavs debuts after being acquired before last Thursday’s trade deadline. Hill was the only one of the four to start.
HIGH SCORING, HOT SHOOTING
The Celtics and Cavs fed off the energy at tip-off and combined to score 63 points and each shoot 50 percent or better from the floor. The C’s held a 32-31 edge after 12 minutes, with Irving (nine points) and Morris (eight points) leading the way.
The Cavs went through a bit of a scare as LeBron James appeared to be in some discomfort after a collision with Aron Baynes on a drive to the basket.
J.R. Smith (seven points) and Jeff Green (six points) paced the Cavs in the first quarter.
The highlight of the quarter was Irving’s step-back shot over James, which drew a roaring applause from the crowd. See the highlight below.
LEBRON TAKES OVER
The Celtics forced the Cavs to take a timeout 3:02 into the quarter after Terry Rozier drove and tossed an alley-oop to Horford to give Boston a 40-38 lead.
The Cavs bounced back to take a 43-40 lead on shots by James and Hood. Hood took five shots in his first six minutes as a Cavalier, and he scored eight quick points as a result.
Irving returned to the game and scored two quick baskets, but then the Cavs took a 48-44 lead thanks to a 3-pointer by Hill and a driving basket from James.
Cleveland built a 10-point lead at 56-46 after another 3-pointer from James, who was on fire most of the quarter, highlighted by a four-minute span during which he scored 12 points.
The Cavs went into halftime up 64-52, led by James’ 17 points, five rebounds and six assists. Cleveland outscored Boston 33-20 in the quarter.
Irving paced the C’s with 16 first-half points. Morris was the only other Celtic with more than seven points.
NO THIRD-QUARTER RUN
The third quarter was an ugly one for the Celtics as nobody could get it going offensively. The Cavs went up by 25 at 92-67 with about four minutes to play after back-to-back wide open 3-point shots and a James field goal. The Celtics fared a little better toward the end of the quarter and went into the fourth trailing 95-74. The Cavs outscored the C’s 31-22 in the third quarter.
Bench players saw almost all the playing time in the fourth quarter as the Cavs’ lead never was threatened.
The Celtics shot just 39.8 from the floor and 24.3 percent (10-for-38) from 3-point range. The Cavs shot 53.6 percent overall and a 53.3 percent (16-for-30) from beyond the arc.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
You can bet Irving enjoyed this step-back shot against James.
The Celtics host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET. It’s Boston’s final game before the All-Star break.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports
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