Posted on May 26, 2018, by Travis Pulver
The Boston Celtics are a very good team. That much was clear in the regular season and has remained evident in the postseason—as long as they are playing at home. After beating the Cleveland Cavalier in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals in Boston, they hoped they could overcome their road woes and close out the series Friday night in Cleveland.
But there was just one problem— the game was on the road. In Cleveland.
However, with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line, there was hope that they could bring their ‘A’ game and get the job done. In the first quarter, it looked like they might. Cleveland decided to take Al Horford out of the game and doubled down on him whenever he touched the ball. That meant other guys would be left open.
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Rather than try to force the game through Horford, the Celtics took what the Cavaliers gave them. Jaylen Brown led the way with 15 points as the Celtics got out to an early 25-20 lead after the first quarter.
But then it happened.
After shooting 61.1 percent in the first, the shots quit falling. After playing good defense in the first, the Celtics let that fall by the wayside as well. During a 7:03 stretch of the second, the game went from being in Boston’s favor, 27-22, to controlled by the Cavaliers, 44-34.
When the half mercifully ended, the Cavs had outscored the Celtics 34-18 in the second. They went into the break with a 54-43 lead.
It was an unpleasant position to be in but not one that the Celtics were incapable of overcoming. All they needed to do was regroup during the break and come out focused in the third quarter—and if possible, get Al Horford more involved in the game plan.
But it wasn’t meant to be. The Celtics battled hard in the third quarter and did manage to cut into the deficit (but just by a single point). But their defense remained sloppy, they continued to struggle with turnovers, and they couldn’t get the offense on track.
At times, it looked like the Celtics were going to make a push in the fourth quarter. But whenever they cut the lead to seven, the Cavs would push it back out to 12. When LeBron James hit a pair of threes to push Cleveland’s lead back out to 11 with a minute and a half to play, it was clear what was going to happen.
Boston lost on the road in the playoffs again, 109-99.
LeBron James led the way for Cleveland with 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists followed by George Hill with 20. Jeff Green led the way off the bench with 14 points. But the win came at a cost. James was banged up after Larry Nance Jr. fell into his league after contesting a shot. Kevin Love was lost early in the game after a head-to-head collision with Jayson Tatum.
Boston got good games out of Terry Rozier (10-16 for 28 points) and Jaylen Brown (11-18 for 27 points). But the could have used a little something more from Al Horford (six points and nine rebounds).
But luckily, they get to go back home for Game Seven Sunday night (at 8:30 PM ET).
“It’s a Game 7,” James said after the game (ESPN). “It’s something that you wish you had when you’re done playing, but more than that, it’s just basketball for me. I know what I’m capable of doing, and I’m going to trust everything I put into it.”
“It’s not going to be pretty,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said (ESPN). “We’ve got to come out ready to get our nose bloody and our mouth bloody. We’ve got to come out ready to fight. You’ve got to find a way, whatever it takes.”