The Boston Celtics were up 2-0 on the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals; that lead has disappeared. The Cavaliers took the last two games at the Quicken Loans Arena, evening the series up at 2-2, making game 5 ever so important. According to NBA.com, teams that win game 5 of a series tied at 2 go on to win the series 82.8% of the time. That number speaks for itself.
There are plenty of things that both teams can do to win the game tonight at 8:30 pm ET, but, for both teams, there are a few major hurdles for the V’s and Cavs to try and come out victorious at the TD Garden.
For the Celtics, they have to stop the Cavaliers role players. In game 4, Tristan Thompson had 13 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks while teammates J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver combined to go 5 of 11 from deep.
LeBron is going to do everything. Boston, just like the entire NBA, is going to have a difficult time stopping him so taking away players for James to lean on makes it more difficult for Cleveland to make plays on the offensive end.
Another issue that the Celtics have had is their defense. They were the top defense during the regular season, but this is the playoffs. Teams try and expose the weak link and the Cavs have seem to have found the Celtics’: Terry Rozier.
Rozier has been pretty solid / consistent on the offensive end, but his defense in game 4 set up the C’s for disaster. The Cavs would continue to set screens for whoever Rozier was covering, forcing a switch, and eventually leading to some points. Kevin Love is going to score over “Scary Terry” in the post 9 out of 10 times, so Brad Stevens and Co. have to figure out a way to mask Rozier’s deficiencies.
The Celtics could also try shooting better than 41% so that they can actually match a LeBron led offense. Al Horford needs to facilitate more from the middle of the floor to get open looks for youngsters Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to try and put up more points.
As for Cleveland, they have done a great job the last two games attacking Boston’s D these past two games, putting up 110+ points both times. The Cavs have also been able to crash the boards much more efficiently than Boston, and to win game 5, they need to keep it up. They were plus 10 and 11 in their wins this series, while Boston held the rebounding edge in their victories.
Overall Cleveland looks to be in a good spot based off of how they’ve played these last two games but, they are in Boston tonight, where the Celtics have been nearly unbeatable compared to on the road, where they have only won 1 game this postseason.
As Brad Stevens said the other night, this has become a best-of-three to get to the NBA Finals. Is the Celtics’ home court advantage going to be why the Celtics win? Or is King James going to overpower Boston one more time? We will find out tonight where this series is headed.
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)