Eastern Conference Finals: Game 4 Takeaways
LBJ for Everything
LeBron James scored 44 points last night, making him the first player to score 40+ in 5 playoff games in the last 25 years. Last dude??? Allen Iverson. Anyway, the most impressive part of last night’s performance wasn’t what he did, it was how he did it. LeBron scored 44 and it didn’t even look like he was trying. It was practically boring. It wasn’t a dominating performance per se but efficiency was key for him throughout. The Celtics are having about as much success guarding him in the last 3 games as any other team has this playoff which isn’t much. The downside of this: 44 points was only enough for the Cavs to win by nine. No matter the outcome of this series, the Celtics are still the better “team” in the face of this fact.
Korver has been a modest offensive contributor in the last two games, averaging 14 PPG and going 9-12 from three in the same stretch which is nice and all but it was his defensive game that made the difference in Game 4. Great defense under the rim (weird) including two blocks on Jaylen Brown and locking down pretty much anyone else who drew his match-up for the whole game was a large part of the Cavs getting the W. And he did all this at 37, which isn’t that old relatively but in NBA years that’s like 120.
The Celtics suck on the road and this was apparent after another slow start in Cleveland that doomed them. The Cavs aren’t amazing but give LeBron a +15 lead at home in the playoffs chances are you aren’t coming back unless your team is from, say, Oakland. The C’s are now 1-6 on the road in the playoffs and the most unsettling part is how different they look when out of the Garden. How can being in a different building effect play so drastically? I understand home-court advantage and all but playing with this sharp of a differential is mind boggling. Cleveland fans aren’t even scary, a doughy looking bunch with no real idea what it means to be a successful sports city. Good news for the C’s is 2 of the last 3 games of the series are home but in a postseason where there has been no pressure on the Celtics, you would have to think this young team is starting to feel it a bit after squandering a 2-0 lead.
It Wasn’t a Blowout
Take this for what you want but the Celtics were not as bad as it seemed last night. Take away a couple of weird calls against them and shake off a few missed easy shots, this game goes to OT or the Celtics win. The Celtics looked much improved over their Game 3 toxic waste meltdown having adjusted to the new looks the Cavs have employed, it’s just they missed out on the execution more times than not. More improvement should be on display in the series return to Boston.
The Tale of Two Offenses
Cleveland’s and Boston’s offense were total opposites last night. Since the series arrived in Cleveland it’s like they have switched rolls. The Cavs who were uninspired and looked dead when the ball was in their hands in Games 1 and 2 have been loose and flowing on the offensive side in the last two. Crisp passing and the willingness to let plays develop has been huge to their offenses success. The Celtics on the other hand, have looked less than stellar. Give the Cavs D credit but last night’s loss was a result of the C’s shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and a complete lack of offensive synergy. Too much time holding onto the ball paired with too much attacking the inside where the Cavs have essentially focused their defensive effort, taking away easy baskets. I mean, the Celtics missed like three dunks in Game 4. In the words of Donald Trump, “SAD!!!”.
Game 5 is now a must win for Boston to guarantee a seventh game at home and real shot at the Eastern Conference title. The Cavs who have had their own road woes, must continue to play uninhibited and if they pull down a W in Game 5, I think the series ends in 6. Boston is a jungle of a building, per KG, and the Celtics are one of the few teams in the NBA where the home crowd brings its own advantage driving the Celtics even while trailing and intimidating the visiting team. The Celtics didn’t look that bad in the Game 4 loss, much better than in Game 3 actually. Even though it was a losing effort, it wasn’t a dumpster fire. Expect a tight Game 5.