By MyFM's Jake Archer - Is it just me, or was last night's 96-83 Celtics win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference kind of...boring? I don't know what it was, but that game just didn't have the juice that most of the others have had thus far in the playoffs. Don't get me wrong, a win is a win and I will take it every single day of the week. I'm not complaining at all, because the Celtics took care of business and pushed LeBron and the Cavaliers to the brink of elimination. I'm just wondering why it didn't feel like a pivotal postseason moment.
I guess I'll just start by saying that LeBron stunk. Go ahead and point to the box score and say "You're a dummy! He had good numbers and led his team in scoring!" Big whoop! The guy just was out of it all night and I can't figure out what his issue is. People are saying he's tired and making that like it's some sort of excuse. Not so fast, my friend. LeBron sure did ham the whole thing up as he usually does, so that the cameras would catch him looking spent and like he'd given it his all. I'm sure once the series is over he'll point to how he had to carry the load and play all of these minutes and he's not young anymore and BLAH BLAH BLAH. LeBron put it in full gear at times last night and then dogged it otherwise. It wasn't about being fatigued, it was about mentally not caring enough.
Some wouldn't even blame the guy if he is indeed tapping out, because we know that what awaits in the Finals is nothing but destruction. Death by a barrage of threes from the Golden State Warriors, is what I'd say it is. So maybe LeBron doesn't want that. Maybe he just wants to tap out, kick his feet up and plan his move in free agency. It certainly looked that way (as he scored just two fourth-quarter points on four shots), and "The King" looked about as disinterested as he did against the Celtics before they made him leave Cleveland the first time.
On the other side, the Celtics showed that they wanted it. They didn't play that great but at least they were trying. Boston seemed comfortable again as they were back at home (earning their tenth straight win and remaining perfect there throughout the playoffs), and they opened up a double-digit lead in the first quarter that would carry them throughout the game. Leading 32-19 after the first, the C's were confident and ready to bully Cleveland. Early in the second, Marcus Morris put a hard hit on Larry Nance and then said something to him that caused a scuffle. Both players, plus Terry Rozier who ran in and shoved Nance, were hit with technicals and Boston was flirting with waking up the Cavs. Cleveland made a run to cut the lead down to 36-28 but the Celtics recovered and took an 11-point lead to the break.
In the first half, Boston had been more aggressive and more ready to go. It appeared that the young players were getting stronger with every minute they played and Jayson Tatum showed up to lead the way once again. Tatum has blossomed into a star before our eyes, and last night he led the C's with 24 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks in 41 minutes. It was his ninth game of at least 20 points in this postseason which is one shy of tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the rookie record. He has also scored a total of 312 points in the playoffs, while the two men drafted before him last year (Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball) scored a combined 528 points all season long. Whoever didn't vote for him (one person) to make him a unanimous All-Rookie selection, looks very dumb.
The second half was really just about the Cavaliers not playing up to par. They shot terribly and couldn't get back in the game despite the C's letting them hang around. Boston went through a four minute scoring drought at one point and the Cavs cut the lead to 83-71. That was as close as they ever got and things just seemed anticlimactic.
Terry Rozier had possibly his worst game of the postseason, but Al Horford (seventh double-double of the playoffs, tying a career high) and Jaylen Brown stepped up to score in double figures. Boston also got double-digit scoring from Marcus Smart (who made it clear he was unhappy with his NBA All-Defense snub after the game) and Morris off of the bench. Abdel Nader and Guerschon Yabusele each got three minutes off of the bench, but Brad Stevens never used Greg Monroe or Semi Ojeleye. The decision to start Aron Baynes over Marcus Morris proved to work and so did the decision to sit Ojeleye. Ty Lue, the Cavs head coach, said after the game that Stevens not playing Semi threw him for a loop. What a hilarious thing to admit and what a way to scream "I'm a terrible coach!"
For the Cavaliers, LeBron put up 26, 10 and five with one steal. The only other Cavalier to score in double figures was Kevin Love, who put up 14. It was a fantastic defensive effort by the Celtics, and despite Cleveland emptying their bench, they never found someone to help out scoring. Starters Tristan Thompson, JR Smith and George Hill COMBINED for 10 points. It took until midway through the third for any of them to get on the board. It is just goes to show you that this was a bit of a rock fight and the Cavs never really put much fear into me or I'm sure anyone.
Now the Celtics have a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals and will try to send the Cavaliers to an early offseason (for them) on Friday night. The last time a non-LeBron James team went to the Finals out of the East was 2010, when it was the Celtics led by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. It'll be tough, because the Celtics have been bad on the road thus far and each game this series has been decided by at least nine points. If they pull it off and move on, it'll be extremely sweet to do so in "The King's" castle. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30. Come back here for the recap!