Posted on May 26, 2017, by Travis Pulver
When the 2016-17 NBA season began, fans already knew what they wanted to see at the end of the season. They wanted the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors to face off once again. Golden State took care of its end of the bargain and beat the San Antonio Spurs in four to earn their spot. Could Cleveland hold up their end?
Could they close out the Eastern Conference Finals and beat the Boston Celtics Thursday night?
Was there ever any doubt?
Cleveland started the game off with a 12-3 and never looked back. By the time the first quarter was done, they had 43 points on the board and held a 16-point lead. They extended the lead slightly after the second quarter to 18-points, 75-57, as they became the first team since the ’03 Mavericks to score 75-points in the first half of a playoff game.
Boston’s offense played better in the second quarter as did their defense. But could the Celtics pick up their game on both ends of the court in the second half? They would have to if there was going to be a comeback.
But they could not.
Cleveland’s offense kept rolling in the second half with a nice 34-point burst in the third quarter. The Cavalier’s defense held up its end by holding the Celtics to just 17-points. With a 109-74 lead heading into the final quarter, the Celtics would need a minor miracle to pull this one out.
That miracle was nowhere to be seen. Boston won the fourth, 28-26, but was crushed by the Cavaliers 135-102.
It wasn’t the way the Celtics wanted to go out, but Boston head coach Brad Stevens was not discouraged by the loss (ESPN):
“I told our guys: `We made a lot of great strides, but this pain is part of the path to what we ultimately want to be,” he said.
Boston managed to win Game Three because several players were able to hit shots making it difficult for the Cavaliers to play effective defense. But, much like in Game Four, the Celtics struggled to hit their shots in Game Five. Only two of the team’s five starters managed to score in double figures, Avery Bradley (23 points) and Jae Crowder (11 points).
Game Three’s hero, Marcus Smart, had another poor night with just six points (2-7 from the floor; 2-5 from three-point range).
LeBron James led the way for the Cavaliers, of course, with 35 points and became the all-time playoff scoring leader along the way. When he hit a three-pointer in the third quarter to bring his total to 29-points for the night, he surpassed Michael Jordan’s career playoff scoring mark (5987).
The record now stands at 5995 points—and will only get higher with at least four more playoff games this season and with easily a few more years left in the tank for James. But he doesn’t want to be remembered as just another scorer:
“I’m not a scorer,” James said before the game. “I don’t want to be labeled as a scorer. I can put the ball in the hoop. I’m a playmaker. I’m a player. Put me on the court, and I find ways to be successful….”
Kyrie Irving chipped in with 24 points and Kevin Love had another double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
With the win, the Cavaliers officially give the fans exactly what they wanted when the season began—a rematch against the Golden State Warriors on the biggest stage the NBA has to offer.
Game One of the NBA Finals will be Thursday night in Oakland at 9 PM ET on ABC.