Written by: Josh Gutbrod
Image: Tony Dejak, AP
The Cleveland Cavaliers evened up the series with the Boston Celtics in Cleveland Monday night. An offensive explosion from LeBron James (44 points on 17/28 shooting) proved too much for the Celtics despite a much-improved effort from the Cs on the road. Gritty play from point guard George Hill (13 points, 2 steals, 6/9 shooting) and center Tristan Thompson (13 points, 12 rebounds, 6/10 shooting) proved key in holding off multiple comeback attempts in the Cavs win.
The Cavalier defense remained impressive in Game 4. The Celtics only managed to connect on 41% of their field goals and 32% of their three-point attempts. The only Celtic players to shoot above 43.5% were Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, and Semi Ojeleye. The trio played 51 minutes and totaled 21 points on 7/13 shots. The rest of the Celtics, particularly star rookie Jayson Tatum and All-Star Al Horford, struggled again offensively. The two did not respond well to the increased physicality and effort from the Cavaliers.
For the Celtics, returning home for Game 5 could not come soon enough. The series is far from over and the home team has dominated the series to this point. Boston will have an opportunity to take a 3-2 lead with a potential Game 7 at home if Cleveland ties the series again.
Heading back to Boston should correct some of the issues. The young Celtics team just seems to feed on the energy of the arena. Jayson Tatum will likely not come out in Game 5 and finish 5/13 with a -14 +/- (yeah, Game 4 was bad). Al Horford likely won’t be shooting below 50% let alone 40%. Defensively, it is hard to imagine the Cavs continuing their hot shooting on the road. Traveling back to the TD Garden means a jolt to the energy and effort of the entire Celtics team.
Game 5 will decide the series. The Celtics maintaining homecourt with a win means Cleveland has to venture back to Boston for Game 7. The Cavs stealing Game 5 means a young Celtics squad has to travel to Cleveland for a win-or-go-home Game 6. Expect a scorer’s duel between LeBron James and Tatum or Jaylen Brown (or both) that comes down to the wire. The team with the best player usually has the edge in close games, and I see the trend continuing in Game 5. The Cavs will steal one in Boston taking a 3-2 series lead.