Celtics hang tough but ultimately lose to Cavs 128 - 122

The Boston Celtics hung around but couldn't complete a comeback against a rested Cavaliers squad, dropping to 3-2 after a 128-122 loss. The C's were down three key players in Al Horford, Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk but still put forth a gritty effort.

The first quarter was a pretty even affair up until the last few minutes when the Cavs went on a 17 6 run over the final four minutes. Some sloppy play and missed shots resulted in a 36-25 Cavalier lead to end the first.

Going into the game the biggest storyline was Jaylen Brown getting the first start of his young NBA career. His matchup? Lebron James. Would LeBron go for 90 points being defended by the rookie? Not exactly. Thankfully, Brown actually played some decent defense against the 12-time All-Star and even chipped in five points during the quarter. Predictably, Brown wouldn't continue to hold down James over the course of the game.

Avery Bradley got off to a good start, scoring eight points and grabbing two rebounds. Three-point threat Amir Johnson actually went scoreless and only grabbed one rebound.

One potential cause for concern were the six three-point shots allowed by the C's in the first quarter. Channing Frye looked like Amir Johnson and JR Smith didn't make matters any better. Porous perimeter defense has been an issue thus far this season and the Celtics, albeit missing a few key players, did nothing to alleviate this.

The return of Marcus Smart has stabilized the second unit, to an extent, and his value showed in the second quarter. He assisted on a Jordan Mickey shot, drew a foul and generally played very Smart-like defense.

Unfortunately, some dude name Kyrie Irving plays for the Cavaliers and he would make sure that the C's were kept at bay despite their decent bench play. Irving would hit back-to-back three's to bump the Cavs lead to 12 with 6:33 to go in the second.

Then the proverbial roof started to come crashing down for the Celtics over the rest of the half and game, really.

Every time it looked like the C's would go on a run, Cleveland would hit another smooth shot, dunk or this:

With 2:54 left in the second quarter, Tristian Thompson, who had a double-double by halftime, blocked an Isiah Thomas shot and tipped in a missed layup attempt on the other end to put the Cavs up 64-46.

Speaking of Isaiah Thomas:

At the end of the half the Celtics should have considered themselves lucky to be down 61-58 after allowing 14 fast-break points and 11 three-point shots in the half.

Lebron, who up until this point had only scored six points, scored nine to open up the second half. At that point it looked like the Celtics were simply not the better team and were fighting to not get blown out.

Despite going on a 17-8 run in the third, it never seemed like the C's were actually threatening to come back, but they did hang around and make things interesting. Isaiah Thomas would draw a foul on a made layup and hit a three free throw to make the score 90-79 with 3:04 left in the third.

Over the rest of the quarter, however, the Cavs would go on a 10-4 run to take a commanding 100 - 83 lead. One interesting thing to note: Terry Rozier didn't check into the third quarter until the 42 second mark.

A Rozier three-pointer and an off-ball foul on Amir Johnson made the score 104-92 on a free throw by Johnson. After five quick points by Avery Bradley the C's cut their deficit to seven.

A Brown three-pointer dropped the Cavs lead to five points with 6:17 to go but two quick shots by Lebron James and Kevin Love created separation once again and bumped the Cavs lead back up to nine.

Free-throws down the streched proved to be the difference as the C's had been in the penalty since 9:10 in the fourth. Boston tried to play defense without fouling but the Cavs played smart and drew contact play after play.

Despite the loss, the play of Jaylen Brown should definitely raise some eyebrows across the league. Sure, LeBron scored 30 points but it's LeBron. Brown scored 19, including three 3-point shots and arguably had a very solid game.

Avery Bradley continued his impressive start to the season, scoring 26 points on 55 percent shooting. Isaiah Thomas had 30 points and missed all six of his three-point attempts.

The second night of back-to-backs have been killer for the C's as they are 0-2 in such games. Thankfully, they will get plenty of rest before their next game on Sunday against the Nuggets.

Photo credit: Joshua Gunter/cleveland.com
Follow Luis on Twitter @luisdgnyc