After a brief stumble in Game 3, the Cleveland Cavaliers are back on track in the NBA Playoffs and handily dealt with Boston Celtics in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead in their Eastern conference championship series. Both teams head to Boston to play Game 5, where the Cavs hope to close out the series and move on to face the waiting Golden State Warriors. However, the Celtics have shown that they are not ready to go gentle into that good night, at least not yet. They are willing to fight tooth and nail to keep their hopes alive, as shown by their defensive tenacity in Game 3. Their grit and determination pulled them through in that game, even without their star point guard, Isaiah Thomas, who reportedly may require surgery to deal with the injury to his hip.
Boston Celtics 99 – Cleveland Cavaliers 112
LeBron James was criticized for his “disappearance” in Game 3, when his team needed him the most. In this game, “the King” made sure he was ready to do what needed to be done to take Cleveland a step closer to their end goal. James delivered a well-rounded stat line with 34 points, five rebounds, six assists, one trey, one steal, and one block. Playing his two-way game took its toll as LeBron eventually got into foul trouble. At this point, Kyrie Irving took over the game in the second half. He shook off a slightly tweaked ankle and went into overdrive on offense, beating his Celtic defenders on the dribble and from downtown. When Kyrie is in the zone like that, there’s really very little teams can do to stop him. That said, Boston coach Brad Stevens was still disappointed with the effort his guys gave in at least slowing Irving down. The guard would go on to lead the Cavaliers to victory on the shoulders of his game-high 42 points. He shot an insane 15-of-22 from the field, 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, and 8-of-9 from the line. Irving pretty much hurt Boston from all over the court. Clearly, the Celtics will have to address this issue and find their defensive stance from Game 3 once again, at least if they want to force a Game 6.
Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder led Boston with 19 and 18 points, respectively. Al Horford and Kelly Olynyk played reasonably well as a frontcourt tandem, combining for 31 points, and 10 rebounds. Still, it would be Cleveland’s Kevin Love who would out-work them on the glass. He finished the game with a 17-point, 17-rebound double-double performance.
Game 5 will be about Boston needing to work as a team to slow down Cleveland’s “Big 3”. They may have lost their best scorer for the remainder of the playoffs, but they can still put up a fight as long as they lean on their defense.