Written by: Josh Gutbrod
Image: Getty Images, Boston Globe
The Cleveland Cavalier offense that was so steady in Games 3 and 4 reverted back to its less appealing form Wednesday night in Boston. The free-flowing, sharpshooting attack seen in Cleveland regressed into an offense with poor ball control and little off-ball movement.
The collapse was equal parts great Celtics defense and horrible Cavalier offense, particularly in the turnover department. The Cavaliers finished with 15 turnovers. While Boston’s athleticism and hustle forced several of the 15 Cleveland threw half-hearted and sloppy passes for most of the evening. Many of LeBron James’s six turnovers (that’s right, six) came in this fashion. Budding Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum had four of Boston’s ten steals to go with two blocks on the evening.
Perhaps the most disheartening thing for Cleveland in Game 5 was how much the team lost by despite playing arguably its second best defensive game of the series. The Celtics shot a horrid 36% from the field. Cleveland closed on the three point line much better than in the previous two games in Boston. Larry Nance Jr. and Kevin Love each made hardnosed defensive plays at the rim, something the Cavaliers have been missing for the majority of the season.
If you told me before Game 5 Cleveland would turn in the type of defensive effort it did I would have thought the Cavaliers would win by double-digits. The Cavaliers played the perfect defensive game to steal one on the road. Yet, Boston won by 13. That is probably the most damning take away from the Game 5 loss for Cleveland. Boston was simply better. Boston IS simply better. The better team coached by the better coach designed by the better front office.
Cleveland is not dead in the water just yet. Boston struggled mightily in both games in Cleveland and a Game 6 victory for the Cavaliers is not outside the realm of possibility. That being said, it is hard to visualize the Celtics losing a potential Game 7 at home after witnessing how dominant the team has been at home throughout the post-season. I will never completely count out any team with LeBron James, but things look very bleak in Cleveland.