BOSTON — After Celtics coach Brad Stevens finished detailing the hip injury that leaves Isaiah Thomas questionable moving forward and after he tried to explain how his team had just endured the most lopsided loss by a No. 1 seed in NBA history, Stevens was asked where the Celtics go from here.
“Cleveland, tomorrow,” he responded.
“You know what, you go and you compete on Sunday. I mean, what else do you do?” Stevens added. “And that’s what I said when I went in the locker room after the game: Each game is worth one. We played probably better than the score indicated in [Game 1], but we obviously played one of our worst games you could play [in Game 2]. Coupled with how good they are and how well they’ve played, that’s going to be a bad deal.
“We have to play a lot better. So we’re going to focus on us, we’re going to figure out ways to play better and we’re going to go after it on Sunday. We’re getting on that plane to play well.”
But the Celtics clearly were stung by another lackluster performance in Friday’s Game 2.
After Wednesday’s Game 1 loss, the Celtics pledged to start faster and be more competitive.
Instead, the Cavaliers ripped the game open late in the first quarter, then built a 41-point halftime advantage. Cleveland’s lead eventually climbed to 50.
“We got our ass kicked. Point-blank, period,” said Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown, who scored a team-high 19 points over 24 minutes. “We didn’t come out with enough energy to start the game off, two games in a row. Defending champs, they swept us off the floor.”
Swept isn’t a word the Celtics want to hear right now, but it’s a sobering reality, particularly if Thomas is unable to go in Game 3. Celtics players rallied around the notion that they’ve rallied out of an 0-2 hole once already in these playoffs, against the Chicago Bulls.
But the Cavaliers might simply be on another level than the rest of the East; they certainly seemed to show that on Friday night.
“It was obviously just embarrassing,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “They not only came out playing harder, but they knocked down shots and that made it that much worse. Credit to those guys. We’ll see what kind of team we are in how we respond. I’m excited about Game 3. I know I’m going to bring it. I’ve been going to war with these guys all year, and I know they’re going to have their A games, as well, no matter what the outcome is.”
Celtics players said the first step forward is to remain unified and not splinter, despite the dismal performance.
“I think the first thing we’ve got to do is stay together,” said Gerald Green. “We’ve got to stay together and ride the course. It’s a long series.
“We’ve been in this situation before. We lost two games at home. It wasn’t to this type of caliber team, though. But we’ve been in this situation before. I think guys still believe. I know I do. I feel like we can go to Cleveland and make it a whole lot different Games 3 and 4 than we did 1 and 2.”