Cleveland Cavaliers vs Boston Celtics: 5 things we learned
Cleveland manged to hold home court last night as they leveled the series with a comfortable 111-102 victory over the Celtics.
(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters/Ken Blaze)
LeBron’s playoff numbers can’t be beat
LeBron James was at his brilliant best again, dropping his sixth 40-point game of the postseason.
The records just keep tumbling for LeBron. Following yet another outstanding performance in Game 4 last night, James broke Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s record for most field goals made in NBA playoff history. The King has now made 2,357 field goals in the postseason and also holds the record for most playoff points and steals.
If LeBron keeps up this pace for a few more years, he will probably finish his career holding the record for nearly every category in the playoffs, cementing his place as one of the league’s greatest.
Cavs role players prove they can play a key role
For much of this postseason in Cleveland it has felt like LeBron against the world, but not last night. James was at his usual best in dropping 44 points but he finally got the support he needed from Cleveland’s supporting cast.
Kyle Korver was outstanding off the bench as he poured in 14 points and provided an electric energy that belied his 37 years. Tristan Thompson looked back to the player that has given opponents nightmares on the glass for the past three years, grabbing 12 rebounds to go with his 13 points.
Kevin Love had a night to forget, shooting a woeful 3 for 12 from the field, but when he got in foul trouble Larry Nance Jr. gave Cleveland valuable minutes off the bench. If the Cavs are to complete the turnaround in this series, they cannot leave LeBron on an island; they will need more nights like last night from Korver and company.
Sloppy Celtics have to tidy things up quickly
Boston’s victories in the first two games of the series were built upon flawless execution of a solid plan. In Cleveland last night that execution deserted the young Boston squad. By the end of the first quarter the Celtics had more missed field goals than points. The sloppy basketball they played all night was summed up perfectly by the fact they missed three uncontested dunks in the first quarter alone.
If the Celtics are to get back on track in game five, they will need to clean up these errors or the momentum the Cavaliers have gained back at home will turn into an unstoppable freight train crashing directly into the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive year,
Boston need to make changes
Boston head coach Brad Stevens didn’t blink when Cleveland changed its starting lineup to include Tristan Thompson. Stevens believed that by sticking with Al Horford at center the Celtics would retain the ability to switch heavily on defense, keeping LeBron off balance and Cleveland’s weak supporting cast subdued. This hasn’t worked. Thompson has provided a much-needed spark at both ends of the floor and LeBron, as he always does given time, has worked out the wrinkles in Boston’s system.
One adjustment Boston could make would be to start Aron Baynes at center to take care of Thompson on the glass, meaning that Horford can move to power forward and cause Love the problems he did in the opening two games of the series. There are certainly risks attached to starting Baynes but the Celtics will have to try something different to stop Cleveland’s momentum.
This is the year of blowout playoff games
Both sets of conference finals have been littered with blow outs. In the seven games we’ve had so far there hasn’t been a single game decided by less than five points and four have been won by a margin of 20 or more.
It feels like this has become more commonplace over the last couple of seasons as the brutal toll of the NBA season leaves players struggling for gas come playoff time. Once one team gets on top, it is very hard for the opposing team to make a run to get back into the game. If this worrying trend continues the league will have to look carefully at a way to combat it.
What were your key takeaways from Game 4 between Boston and Cleveland? Comment below!