ECF Game 5 Takeaways
Well, this hasn’t exactly been an entertaining series to watch, yet it’s as tightly contested as ever. Every game in this series, to a varying degree, has been a blowout victory and Game 5 was no different. Both teams are playing significantly better at home which has led to a 3-2 series lead for Boston as they head back to Cleveland for Game 6. Believe it or not there are a few things to take away from this game, even with such an anti-climactic outcome.
The Celtics finally came out hot to start a game. They scraped up a big lead in the opening quarter, hitting 6 threes and ending the quarter with a 13 point lead. Boston has a bad habit of starting games slowly and having to claw their way back into contention from behind. This time it was different. They led by double digits for most of the game regardless of a few attempts by the Cavs to get back into it. This will be important in Game 6 if Boston wants to avoid a Game 7. In Cleveland they will need to come out strong and aggressive and not allow themselves to get down early.
The Boston Celtics brought their usual TD Garden energy, and with that comes the number 1 defense in the league that held the Cavs to only 83 points. The offense however, is what really impressed tonight. Rookie Jayson Tatum scored a team high 24 points in Game 5. After having 7-straight 20-point games, this is his first 20 point game of the series, and it was a huge one. The latest addition to the All-NBA Rookie 1st team came up big on both ends of the court leaving the Cavs scrambling to contain him. It’s hard to stop the C's when Tatum has a night like this and that’s before you add the 17 from Jaylen Brown and the other 3 scorers in double digits. Another well balanced offensive attack pummeled the weaknesses in Cleveland’s defense.
While some faces in NBA Media may be overreacting, it might be worth mentioning LeBron James mannerisms tonight. Even though he scored a game high 26 points along with 10 rebounds and 5 assists, the King didn’t look like himself. He’s an all time great passer who found himself making rare bad passes and careless plays that led to baskets for the other team. Many commentators and sideline reporters had the notion that he was visibly fatigued. He missed shots he wouldn’t usually miss and is averaging almost 6 turnovers a game in this series. It’s possible the Celtics defense is wearing him down and keeping him from getting his teammates involved in the game. In Game 6 this will likely not be a factor because he has a more collective effort from his peers when they are in Cleveland. But I must remind you, Game 7 is in Boston and LeBron will have his hands full with Brad Stevens’ game plan. There’s no time to be tired.