BOSTON– In what was a sloppy offensive game for both teams, the Cavaliers came up on the short end in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, 96-83.
Only two Cavs players scored in double-digits, as LeBron James put up 26 points and Kevin Love put up 14. The Celtics, meanwhile, had five guys in double-digits. Jayson Tatum led the way with 24 points. Jaylen Brown had 17 points, while Al Horford had 15 and Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart each chipped in 13.
With the loss, the Cavs fall behind in the series, three games to two. In order to avoid elimination for two straight games, they will need to, as head coach Tyronn Lue said in his postgame media availability, “show some grit– mentally, and physically.”
Here are three takeaways.
1. The Cavs offense was REALLY stagnant and sloppy
At home, the Cavaliers were great at moving the ball and moving without the ball on the offensive end. In Game 5, however, they weren’t doing either of those things particularly well and ended up playing slower overall as a result. It also didn’t help that the Cavs turned the ball over 15 times, costing them 15 points.
It’s not surprising then, that the Cavs shot just 31-of-74 from the field as a team. They only really got consistent production from James and Love, and James even looked tired at times throughout the contest.
Besides James’ and Love’s 40 points, the other Cavaliers starters combined for a measly 10.
For as bad as the Cavs were, however, it’s not like the Celtics had a fantastic shooting night (which makes this loss even more frustrating), going just 31-of-85 from the field. They did out-shoot the Cavs in two key areas, though.
2. The free throw and 3-point disparity
The Celtics made 21 of their 23 free throws on Wednesday, while the Cavs were just 12-of-19.
From deep, the Celtics were 13-of-39, compared to the Cavs’ 9-of-34 output.
It’s clear that at home, Boston is simply a lot more comfortable taking 3-point shots. In Game 3 at The Q, the Celtics attempted just 22 3s. In Game 4, 28.
Add it all up, and from the line and deep the Cavs were outscored by 21 points.
3. Another poor outing from the starting backcourt
George Hill and J.R. Smith haven’t had to have fantastic games this series– but tonight once again proves that it really goes a long way when we at least notice them.
They were outscored by Boston’s starting backcourt, 25-9, and made just two field goals. But again, similar to their team’s overall numbers, Boston’s Terry Rozier and Brown combined to shoot just 7-of-30 from the field, something that the Cavs backcourt could have easily taken advantage of.
The reality of the situation is that if neither Smith or Hill get going, it allows the Celtics to focus most of their defensive energy on LeBron James. At this stage in the season and the series, the Cavs simply aren’t going to win without more than two players stepping up.