NBA wrap: Celtics underwhelms without Kyrie Irving; Cavs struggles past Magic

The Celtics showed its vulnerability without Kyrie Irving while the Cavaliers again gave up a huge lead in the second half.

LeBron James (23) and Isaiah Thomas of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate a point against the Orlando Magic.   -  AFP

Neither the Celtics or the Cavaliers gave its best performances on Thursday. Boston was without guard Kyrie Irving (shoulder) and fell to the 76ers 89-80, and Cleveland once again collapsed in the second half.

Fortunately for LeBron James and Co. they were able to hold on for a 104-103 win after blowing a 23-point lead.

For the Celtics, Thursday night was simple: Without its starting point guard they didn't protect the basketball. Boston averages 14 turnovers per game, but it had 14 turnovers in the first half alone and finished with 19. Coach Brad Stevens was less than thrilled with his team's performance.

"We stink," Stevens told TNT after the third quarter. "The first three quarters we've stunk."

Read: Wizards gets in scuffle, shows no fight in blowout loss to Hornets

Boston's 80 points was a season-low and their worst offensive performance since Dec. 15, 2015 when they were held to 77 points by the Cavaliers. Speaking of the Cavs, it was up 63-40 in the second quarter to the worst team in the league, but for the second time in three games it blew a lead of 20 points or more.

Luckily for Cleveland, Isaiah Thomas made two free throws with 11 seconds left to give Cleveland a lead they would not relinquish. Considering this was just Cleveland's fourth win in its last 13 games, James took the victory for what it was and nothing more.

"Right now we're in Strugglesville," he told reporters after the game. "But it felt like a win. We needed it. Definitely."

STUDS OF THE NIGHT

Newly dubbed All-Star Joel Embiid scored 26 points with 16 rebounds and six assists in the Sixers' win.

Rockets guard Eric Gordon scored 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting, but it was his 7-for-13 shooting from beyond the arc which truly made his performance special in the Rockets' 116-98 win over the Timberwolves.

DUD OF THE NIGHT

James scored less than 20 points for the third time in his last seven games. His 16 points came on 7-of-16 shooting, but he went 0 for 4 from 3-point range and 2 for 8 from the free-throw line. Add that to his six turnovers and he certainly contributed to the Cavaliers' struggles on Thursday.

HIGHLIGHT

It's not every day you see a 7-footer match up with Chris Paul, but Karl-Anthony Towns isn't just any 7-footer, he's one of the best in the game.

WHAT'S NEXT

Spurs (30-16) at Raptors (30-13) — This may not be the prettiest of games, but it will be the grittiest. DeMar DeRozan was just named an All-Star starter and for good reason while LaMarcus Aldridge has quietly been one of the best big men in the NBA.

Support Sportstar


Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.

  Dugout videos