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Back to drawing board for Stevens, Celtics

Celtics coach Brad Stevens saw his team lose Game 1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images

CLEVELAND -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens' message to his team in the aftermath of a Game 1 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was simple: "We'll learn from it and improve from it."

Stevens didn't spend very long talking to his team in the aftermath of a 113-100 loss at Quicken Loans Arena that put Boston in a 1-0 hole in this best-of-seven series. He set a land speed record while appearing at the postgame podium shortly after the final buzzer, patiently fielded eight minutes' worth of questions about all the areas the Celtics needed to improve on, then slipped on his backpack and slipped out toward the team bus.

Stevens stressed in the days leading up to Sunday's Game 1 that he didn't want to overload himself or his team and maintained his typical next-game preparation. Scouting the Cavaliers in advance of the series was complicated by the fact that Cleveland rested bodies during two late-season meetings and there was only so much to be gauged from the teams' four total meetings this season.

But with his laptop loaded up with fresh, ready-for-dissection game film, Stevens departed the arena Sunday knowing he had the next 18 hours to tweak Boston's game plan with a goal of cleaning up all the areas that contributed to the Celtics fading after a strong initial burst out of the gates.

For a coach who has relentlessly focused on what's next, being prepared for Monday's off-day practice was Stevens' top priority.

That's the way it would have been regardless of Sunday's outcome. But even though the Celtics trailed by as many as 20 points in the second half, there were a lot of positives as well. For a team thought to be a monster underdog, the Celtics did themselves well, rallying within six late in the third quarter before the game got away again.

When Stevens watches the film, he will lament the turnovers (14 giveaways leading to 20 points), Cleveland's offensive rebounds (15 caroms leading to 18 second-chance points), and the way Kyrie Irving (game-high 30 points) burnt his squad at key moments, especially at the end of quarters or while making tough shots that Boston couldn't have really defended better.

Film doesn't lie and the Celtics won't like much of what they see. Avery Bradley said he already knows what the film will reveal, but believes the sessions can help Boston moving forward.

"We can definitely play better," Bradley said. "We know that. And I think [the Cavaliers] know that. We just have to go out there and prove it on Tuesday."

Bradley lamented his poor shooting night. He made only 3-of-10 attempts overall and missed five 3-pointers. He had a couple of air balls that weren't even close. He promised to be better on Tuesday, saying, "I have to shoot better, and I know that I do. I'm going to go out there and prove it on Tuesday."

The other controllable areas Boston must improve in:

Turnovers: Before Sunday's game, Stevens said, "I think the biggest key for us is we can't turn the ball over because then they get run outs. And if they get run outs, they're going to make some superhuman plays. And those can be deflating enough. But if you have 20 points per game when your defense isn't set, then you're in trouble."

Boston committed just one turnover over the first 14 minutes (leading by as much as eight in that span), then committed six more giveaways before halftime (sending the Cavaliers into the intermission up eight). Isaiah Thomas had a strong playoff debut, posting a double-double (22 points, 10 assists over 31:34), but he had five turnovers for the game, including three ill-timed giveaways in the third quarter.

"Fourteen turnovers -- we haven't had that in a while," Jae Crowder said. "You know us, we don't have turnovers like that."

The Celtics had ranked third in the NBA since the All-Star break in turnover percentage, kicking the ball away just 13.1 percent of the time. Boston's turnover percentage spiked to 14.6 percent in Sunday's Game 1.

Rebounding: There was a sequence late in the fourth quarter in which a Cavaliers miss rocketed off the front of the rim and a crashing Kelly Olynyk seemed to duck away from the ball instead of trying to grab it. Boston's entire roster had trouble corralling caroms on Sunday afternoon.

The size-deprived Celtics were an average rebounding team in the second half of the season, ranking 15th in defensive rebound percentage (74.9 percent). On Sunday, the Celtics grabbed a mere 64.3 percent of the available defensive caroms. The Cavaliers got to one of every three of their misses and generated the sort of second-chance output that Boston can't survive, especially when it's expending so much energy to generate the initial stops.

"[Rebounding is] one thing we didn't emphasize enough coming into the series," Crowder said. "Now that we know, we know what to do now. We'll look at film, get better, see how we can do better on the rotations and blocking out and all that."

Added Stevens: "We've got to do a better job of making contact and getting the ball. This is what great teams do to you. They put you in position where you have to pick your poison."

Responding to adversity: Inevitably, the Cavaliers are going to make runs. They're simply too talented not to. Stevens tried to call timeouts early in Sunday's game whenever Cleveland got a little momentum. But it's ultimately on Boston's players to fight through those bursts, not allow them to snowball the way they did Sunday, and not abandon the ball movement, offensively, when shots won't fall on the opposite end.

Said Stevens: "Your margin [for error] is greatly decreased when you're playing a team of this caliber, so all of that stuff feels like a much bigger deal on each possession. You just have to be great on both ends the whole time, all 48 minutes."

Echoed Crowder: "We played well, but we shot ourselves in the foot too many times when we needed to make a run. They made a run, we needed to respond, and we didn't do that the way we should have."

Now it's on Stevens to help his team correct its mistakes.

"I don't want to overdo it," Stevens said. "This is a long series. I think that we have to learn from what we didn't do well, and try to continue what we did do well -- and do it more often."

Before the start of the second half, ESPN's cameras caught Stevens sitting on the Celtics bench seemingly (and maybe subconsciously) bobbing his head as Jay Z's "On To The Next One" blared. Maybe he was just acknowledging what an assistant coach was saying next to him, but even without context, it seemed appropriate the way the game got away from Boston in the second half.

Now it's time for adjustments with an eye toward Game 2. On to the next one, indeed.