Jayson Tatum and the Celtics utterly dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and are now one game away from the NBA Finals after taking a 3-2 series lead. Tonight’s victory improved the Celtics to 10-0 at home in the playoffs.
Here are a few takeaways from today’s game.
1. Bouncing back from Games 3 & 4
The Celtics’ woes on the road continued in Games 3 & 4, as they struggled to gain any momentum against LeBron and the Cavs. In both games, the Celtics dug early holes, as they started off ice cold from the field. For instance, they fell behind by 19 in Game 4, which made it extremely hard for them to come back. Aided by the raucous crowd at the TD Garden, the Celtics were able to start off hot, and take a 13 point lead at the end of the first quarter.
When compared to the last two games of the series, the Celtics were much more composed, and made better decisions with the basketball. The C’s were able to absorb several Cleveland runs, including a decisive one in the fourth quarter which trimmed their lead to 12 points following a 9-0 run. With about five minutes remaining in the game, it appeared as if the Celtics were reeling after several head-scratching possessions, but a lob from Terry Rozier to Al Horford ensured that the game would not slip away.
2. A star in the making
Jayson Tatum has been absolutely remarkable for the Celtics in the playoffs, and his stellar performance continued tonight. Tatum logged 24 points to go along with 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. Tatum was clearly the best player on the court for the Celtics and hit a number of key shots throughout the game which helped extend the Celtics’ lead.
Tatum was thrust into the spotlight following Kyrie Irving’s injury, and his sustained brilliance has the Celtics one win away from a return to the NBA Finals.
3. Is Lebron tired?
Even though LeBron James had 26 points, it was still an off night for the King, as he had more turnovers than assists (six and five, respectively). LeBron had several careless turnovers which the Celtics benefited from, and it appeared as if carrying the Cavs in the early stages of the game had an impact on his effectiveness. On several occasions throughout the game, it was evident that LeBron was exhausted, which did not help the Cavs at all.
This could be attributed to the Celtics’ strategy of throwing several bodies at him, which requires him to exert more energy while driving to the basket. LeBron’s ineffectiveness made it much easier for the Celtics to utterly dominate the Cavs in Game 5. However, the Celtics cannot afford to let their guard down in Game 6, as LeBron will likely come at them with everything he has in an effort to stave off elimination.
Looking ahead: With a victory in Friday’s Game 6, the Celtics would clinch a berth in their first NBA Finals since 2010. However, they must find a way to overcome their struggles on the road in the playoffs, as they are only 1-6 away from the TD Garden.