Celtics’ Joe Mazzulla pinpoints major issues that triggered Game 2 downfall vs Cavs

Tony Nguyen | Boston Celtics
May 10, 2024

The Boston Celtics were routed 118-94 on their home floor in Game 2 of their NBA Playoffs series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After the game, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla explained what went wrong, per Bobby Manning of CLNS:

Mazzulla: ‘Their ball pressure was better, their pick up points were higher … they closed into our bodies.’ Said Cavaliers forced indecision, Celtics didn’t know whether they were open. ‘There were times in the game where we went through offensive lapses, and it impacted our defense.’”

While the Cavaliers only forced seven Celtics turnovers, their defensive pressure forced Boston into a 41 percent shooting night, including only 23 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Cleveland found something that worked, a thing that they need to continue if they are going to push the Celtics — big games from Evan Mobley and Caris LeVert. Mobley finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while LeVert scored 21.

Celtics fans can argue their team was just complacent after dominating Miami in the first round and then Game 1 of this series, but this does follow a pattern.

Boston has struggled more than expected all season in the games when ty are struggling from the 3-point line. The Celtics took an NBA high 43.7% of their shots from beyond the 3-point line this season, but that can lead to some off nights.

Game 2 was one of those games, as Jaylen Brown was 0-of-6 from behind the 3-point line. Derrick White also regressed to the mean and was 1-of-8.

Celtics see Cavaliers tie series at 1-1

The Boston Celtics bench looks on in the final minutes of game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden.
© David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics confidently entered Game 2 after a decisive 120-95 victory in Game 1. Despite that impressive win, Cleveland flipped the script with a dominating two-way performance on Thursday night. Cavaliers star guard Donovan Mitchell gave the Celtics endless problems. He finished the night with a game-high 29 points to go along with eight assists and seven rebounds.

Although Boston led by as many as nine points in the first half, the Cavaliers never went away and ended up being rewarded for it. After the game was tied 54-54 at halftime, Cleveland outscored the Celtics 64-40 in the course of the next 24 minutes.  Boston took a few cracks at the lead, but they could never make a significant dent, causing them to pull the starters with nearly five minutes remaining in the game.

One of the biggest reasons Boston wasn’t able to dominate the way that they did in Game 1 was because of the Cavs’ bench play. After scoring just four points in the first matchup between the two teams, Caris LeVert erupted for 21 points and six rebounds on Thursday night.

Boston will now travel to Cleveland with the series tied 1-1. Game 3 tips off in Cleveland on Saturday night.