The Boston Celtics continued their winning streak at home and wore down the Cavaliers in Game 5. Can they continue their dominance in Game 6, or will LeBron James go above and beyond in front of his home crowd?
The Boston Celtics took care of business at TD Garden, with Jayson Tatum dropping 24 points to lead the Celts to a home victory. A sluggish LeBron James got little help from his teammates and was unable to shoulder the load on the road. The Celtics need to come out of the gate strong if they wish to take the Cleveland fans out of the game early and finish this series at Quicken Loans Arena.
LeBron James looked as if he had walked to Boston from Cleveland between Games 4 and 5. The King appeared drained, hanging his head on the bench and catching his breath between possessions. He still managed 26 points (a good game for anyone else), but after a fast start for Boston he never looked confident offensively. Poor shot selection, sloppy turnovers, and an overall lack of effort plagued Cleveland from the beginning, as the Celtics cruised to a 96-83 victory. Kevin Love contributed 14 points and 7 rebounds, but nobody else on the Cavs roster scored in the double digits. On the flip side, Boston’s overall depth proved too much to handle. As in Game 4, the Celtics had five players in double digits and were moving the ball effortlessly against a scrambling Cavaliers defense. Jayson Tatum’s dominant performance proved that on any given night, a different Celtic can be the one to take over.
Boston has been notoriously good at home but their record on the road is less than stellar. Cleveland will look to feed off their crowd’s energy and do something they’ve struggled to do all year: play solid defense. If Kyle Korver and Tristan Thompson can show up like they did in Game 4, Boston may have a tough match-up on their hands. Al Horford will need to create second chance points and handle Tristan Thompson in the paint if the Celtics want to snag a rare road win. Three-point shooting will be pivotal for both teams, as Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown both hope to provide offensive support like they did in Boston. Unless they can get their offense going, Cavaliers fans may be forced to watch LeBron James play in Cleveland for the last time.
Neither team in this series has managed to win on the road. As soon as one team grabs momentum, the other steals it back on their home court. The key stat to watch will be the turnover battle: Cleveland committed 15 in Game 5 and seemed unable to run their offense. Whichever team can minimize their turnovers will definitely have an edge on Friday night.
Boston is listed at +7 to take Game 6, but their inability to win on the road may rear its ugly head again. The total line of 201.5 may be scary after a low-scoring Game 5, but I expect the Cavaliers offense to find their way at home. The Cavaliers should find their range from deep and force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.