The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Boston Celtics in five games, and advanced to their third consecutive NBA Finals. The Celtics couldn’t slow down Cleveland, and the Cavaliers had 75 points in the first half. Give Celtics head coach Brad Stevens a ton of credit for making the games in Cleveland interesting. Boston just didn’t have enough offensively, though, as they fell in five games to the Cavaliers.
Cleveland Cavaliers Defeat Boston Celtics In Five Games, Head To Third Straight NBA Finals
The Cavs had the star power in this series, and the Celtics didn’t have the best circumstances, either. Boston fought their way back into things with a thrilling Game 3 comeback, but they couldn’t match up with Cleveland’s big three consistently. The Cavaliers ended Boston’s campaign with a 135-102 road win.
Cleveland Dominates In Boston
The Cleveland Cavaliers were on a mission playing on the road. Games 1 and 2 weren’t close from the get-go, as LeBron James kept rolling. The C’s could not keep him out of the paint most of the series, and he continued to show he can be a killer on the road. He had 29.6 points on 58.0% shooting, 6.8 assists, and 2.2 steals per game in this series (per nba.com). He has a net rating of 20.1 in this current playoff run, which is a career-high (also, per nba.com).
The supporting cast, again, was huge for James to take the crowd out of it. Kyrie Irving finally had a consistent series, as his shot-making and handle at times is (Ky)riediculous. Avery Bradley gave him all he could handle, but Irving’s greatness at times was just too much for the Celtics defense. The Cavs also got hot shooting and toughness from Kevin Love, who had the inside-out game going really all series long.
The other guys got in the act as well as Deron Williams, Tristan Thompson, and smothering defense from J.R. Smith all played significant roles in three blowouts. In this postseason, the Cavs have a plus/minus of 18.1 on the road, compared to just 8.3 at home (per nba.com). In Cleveland, the games were much more compelling.
The Celtics Comeback in Game 3
After the first two games of this series, virtually everyone expected the C’s to get swept. They were going to Cleveland and lost their best player, Isaiah Thomas, to a nagging hip injury for the rest of the playoffs. Thomas put the team on his back all season long as the primary scoring option and playmaker, so you obviously can’t replace that production. Things looked to be going the way we all thought, as Cleveland was in control. However, the C’s didn’t lay down.
Boston’s ball movement was noticeably better with “IT” not on the floor controlling possessions with constant dribbling. Stevens was drawing up great plays, and Marcus Smart was steaming hot. He took the role of primary ball-handler, and boy did he deliver. Smart had a career night, as he knocked in eight threes and put up 27 points to lead Boston’s 21-point comeback. The Celtics got contributions from their bench, too. Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko made some huge shots down the stretch.
The two combined for 25 points and a plus/minus of 37; Jerebko especially got the C’s going with his chirping and defense. For whatever reason, LeBron wasn’t himself in Game 3, and the Cavs had a letdown in the second half. Coincidentally, the C’s took advantage, as Bradley rattled home a three with 0.1 seconds left to get a stunning 111-108 win.
The Cavs Respond To Adversity In Game 4
In Game 4, the C’s came out firing, and controlled the whole first half. The ball movement was exceptional yet again, and Boston had a 10-point lead at the intermission. Unfortunately for them, it probably should have been much more than that. Boston had a unique situation going into the second half, as James had four first half fouls.
During the second half, the Celtics didn’t have the same fortune. I was mesmerized by Kyrie’s third quarter, as he willed the Cavs back into the game with 21 points mostly from isolations. From there, LeBron got going with a big fourth quarter, and Irving brought it home. The end result was a rough 112-99 loss going back to Boston.
What Does Boston Do With IT?
There’s no disputing that what Thomas did this season was spectacular. He was third in the league in points per game, second in offensive win shares, and second in offensive box plus/minus (per Basketball Reference). He willed them to the 1-seed in the East as a 5’9″ point guard, and his postseason play was remarkable with the loss of his sister, Chyna. That said, he has one more year left before he would eligible for a massive contract. That’s something the C’s front office has staring them in the face.
Does Boston deal the number one overall pick to get a player like Paul George or Jimmy Butler to pair with IT and last year’s free agent snag Al Horford? Can they land free agent gem Gordon Hayward who once played for Brad Stevens at Butler? General Manager Danny Ainge watched these games against the Cavs: Boston had much better ball movement and defensive versatility without IT.
Long-term, they have to deal Thomas or let him walk. They have a tremendous coach in Stevens and are light years better defensively without Thomas, but they have a ton of options. It will be quite a storyline next season; I personally doubt they sign a 5’9″ point guard to a massive deal.
How Long Is The King’s Reign?
For whatever reason, LeBron Raymone James is not slowing down. He’s on his way to a seventh straight NBA Finals, an accomplishment that is mind-boggling. He’s doing this in an era of superior athletes, and he’s had to adjust his game so many times throughout his career. The man is still arguably the best athlete in the league in his 14th season, which is unbelievable.
He is now first in playoff career points (per nba.com), as he just passed Michael Jordan last night (The Ghost). It remains to be seen how long he has a stranglehold on the East, but if he keeps playing this way, it’s going to be a while. His ability to elevate the play of his teammates is unparalleled in the history of this league, and it’s going to take a Herculean effort from James to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. I have a feeling those two teams could meet in the Finals for three more years not including this season.