Everyone expected the Cleveland Cavaliers to show up in the TD Garden with some urgency Wednesday night. Especially after losing their first two games on the road before taking care of business on their home court in Games 3 & 4. But the Cavaliers came on flat and uninterested, playing lackadaisical defense. That included LeBron James, he did not come out and attack the basket early, instead he settled for three pointers in the first quarter. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens also made the adjustment of switching Terry Rozier off LeBron quickly in the pick and roll, which is something he didn’t do in Game 4. Not to mention the hostile Boston crowd who was a factor early, due to the fact the Celtics started off the first quarter hitting 6-12 from beyond the arc, which lead to the Celtics a 32-19 lead going into the second quarter.
But it looked as if the Cavaliers were going to crawl their way back into it after a scuffle between Larry Nance Jr, Marcus Morris, and Rozier. The fight resulted in technical fouls putting Kyle Korver to the line in which he made the free throw. Then consequentially, Nance Jr. was fired up and made some big defensive and hustle plays meanwhile guard Jordan Clarkson hit back to back threes to bring the Cavs within striking distance. Ultimately however, the Celtics were too hot from three going into the half which gave them a 53-42 lead.
Going into the second half both teams came out sloppy. Turning the ball over, bad shot selections, and missed opportunities was the story of the first half of the third quarter. J.R. Smith didn’t even score his first points until the middle of the quarter. Meanwhile on the other side, Celtics Jason Tatum remained poised in the moment, hitting jumper after jumper with little time left on the shot clock. Along with the Celtics hot shooting, LeBron James showed his exhaustion and tiredness on the court leaving men wide open on defense and it’s no wonder the Cavaliers lost 96-83.
Going back to Quicken Loans Arena for Game 6 will be a tough task, particularly when facing elimination. But expect the Cavaliers to respond to the challenge. Players like George Hill, J.R. Smith, and Tristan Thompson have been completely different players at home compared to the road. Not only that, but it’s no secret other role players feel more comfortable at home on the big stage. And the Cavs still by far have the best player in the series in LeBron, who even if tired can still take over a game especially at home. You can also expect them to play tougher defense as well, as they reverted to their old ways in Game 5 similar to what they did in Games 1 and 2. And finally, look for Cleveland to turn the ball over less as well, as they almost doubled the Celtics turnover in Game 5 with 15 compared to their 8. That is something they can easily fix with more attention to detail at home.
It’s good thing this team has already felt what it is like to feel the pressures of a win or go home game. They won a Game 7 at home against a scrappy Indiana Pacers team. The Cavaliers should go into this game feeling confident they can get the job done. As everyone all knows about the Celtics postseason struggles on the road, going 1-6 compared to 10-0 at home. With the home team winning every game this series by a wide margin, perhaps the viewers can expect another Game 7 in these NBA playoffs. Mainly because the King of Ohio teams are 10-3 when facing elimination since 2012.