There’s no place like home.
That phrase is printed on every type of accessory in the world. It’s sewn into pillows, framed into ridiculously sized photographs, and posted onto a multitude of white women’s Instagrams when they get that first Pumpkin Spiced Latte from their local coffee spot when they come home for Thanksgiving during their first semester of college.
It’s a phrase that’s beaten more than a dead horse. Through all that, it still holds weight for these Boston Celtics and they proved it last night.
I’ll say it again because it still hasn’t really sunk in yet… The Boston Celtics are one win away from the NBA Finals. I also can’t believe that it’s been an actual 8 years since the Celtics have donned the Finals patch on their jerseys. This is surreal.
Don’t get it twisted, I’m not about to make some gigantic deal about the Celtics being just one win away from a trip to the Finals. With a team on this kind of run and this close to playing for a title, this should not be anyone’s endgame nor should it be this triumphant feeling just for holding home court.
All I’m saying is that this is banana land… Nobody saw this coming except the Celtics themselves. We all felt like the C’s could win a round or two and give Cleveland a fight. Now we’re in a position to watch the Celtics knock out LeBron James and his band of misfit toys.
Let’s get it.
The funny thing about statistics is that they usually can tell the entire story. The phrase numbers never lie is popular for a reason. Analytics explain just about everything especially when it comes to sports.
Except for last night… kind of.
The Celtics shot 36.5% for the game while Cleveland shot 41.9%… The Celtics did not play as well as they would have liked on the offensive end. They missed more layups and definitely rushed shots that they had no business rushing.
When a team is held to that kind of shooting percentage you’re expecting to be on the bad side of a blowout or in a close battle that’s coming down to who can get the last stop.
The Celtics decided to break that mold and shoot like garbage but still maintain a double-digit lead for the majority of the second-half… How?
Timely defense. Three-point shooting. Ball security. Shooting volume.
Boston finally got back to playing defense the right way. They were closing out with purpose and challenging every shot. Then whenever a Cavs’ shooter was running through screens the Celtics made sure they felt every defender on his way.
The Cavaliers had 15 turnovers and 6 of them came from LeBron James alone. Jayson Tatum was literally flying around the court with crucial steals that would have made Bernard Madoff blush in his prison cell.
Three-point shooting made a difference in this one. The Celtics hit 13 threes last night while the Cavs only hit 9. That difference doesn’t seem gigantic but it’s a +12 advantage for the Celtics AND it was about when those threes came. The first quarter for every road team has been abysmal and it was no different last night. The Celtics came out guns blazing and it reflected on the scoreboard early.
The last point I’ll make on this section is shooting volume. The Celtics shot like shit but still managed to walk away with this one. The Celtics took 11 more shots than the Cavaliers (85-74) that means the Celtics had 11 more possessions than Cleveland (Captain Obvious indeed). If you’re going to shoot a poor percentage from the floor it behooves you to try and get as many opportunities to score as possible and Boston did that.
Once you combine the advantage in the number of possessions with 21-23 from the free throw line (91%) you’re going to at least have a chance to make some noise and win the game.
The Wonder Kid
There’s not much more we can say about Jayson Tatum that we haven’t already said in just about every Celtics blog we’ve ever written here on the site… but we’re going to say it anyway.
This kid is absolutely unbelievable and completely changes what it means to be a rookie in the NBA. Just think. Last night was a pivotal Game 5 in a tied series where the winner of Game 5 goes on to win the series 83% of the time… and this was the 20-year-old’s stat line…
+19 net rating
Are you joking me?
There are so many things that are impressive about Tatum’s game but to me, it’s his poise. That is my favorite thing about him. He’s a kid and he has the poise of Matt Damon in the last 15 minutes of Rounders.
Look at that second highlight again… He gets the ball and the shot-clock is winding down he’s in a no-win situation and knows he’s up against it and there was ZERO PANIC WHATSOEVER. He gathered, made his move, and finished. You expect so many rookies to panic and rush a shot that turns into transition on the other end.
Again, like we’ve been saying, Jayson Tatum is no ordinary rookie.
Old School / New School
Al Horford and Jaylen Brown brought it last night. It wasn’t an off-the-charts night for either of them but I’m putting them together in this section because of the way their games complemented one another last night.
Jaylen Brown was back to being Black Panther and attacking the basket like the freak athlete he is. It paid dividends when he got to the free-throw line 8 times last night. Jaylen finished with 17 and really made the concerted effort to impact the defensive end of the floor.
Speaking of effort, impact, and the defensive end of the floor…
Al Horford went full DAD last night. He did all the dirty work on the defensive end of the floor. He was out in the summer heat building a God damn deck while all the youngin’s played on the jungle gym. Then when the boys got tired late he carried them all in safely.
15 points and 12 rebounds for Big Playoff Al Horford and he was a game-high +22 on the floor.
It’s something that if you’ve watched this team all year long you come to expect. When it’s late in the game, even if he’s been quiet, Al Horford will be showing up to tell you that it’s bedtime. He responds to adversity the exact way an NBA professional should. Late in the fourth, he commits 2 turnovers and the bounces back by sprinting the floor for a lob from Rozier.
I’m at the point in my life where if everything is exploding around me and nothing seems to be going right… If somehow Al Horford shows up I know I’m going to be okay. That’s how clutch this guy is when it matters.
Just A Quick Note On The Cavs
As much as I could keep talking about the Celtics and turn this into a 4,000-word blog I at least want to touch on the mess that was the Cavaliers on the road last night.
I didn’t expect that kind of effort (or lack of effort) from the Cavs. LeBron had an acceptable performance while also having it be forgettable. He scored at will but turned the ball over at a ridiculous rate. Kevin Love had a solid contribution of 14 & 7 but if we’re talking about that as one of the better performances on the team… then that’s bad.
LeBron and Love combined for 40 of the Cavs’ 83 points and shot a combined 17-35… Everyone else?
14-39… THE ENTIRE REST OF THE TEAM… WOOF. The other three starters combined for 10 points. The Cavs bench kind of produced but I guess somebody has to score when LeBron and Kevin Love are both on the bench for that amount of time.
The Non-LeBrons as a whole are just ghosts of themselves when away from Quicken Loans Arena. I know that home court matters but it was just surprising that the Cavaliers didn’t put up a bigger fight. I expected a close game, not that.
Views From Game 6
The next two days are going to be a weird mix of safe yet terrified. It’s nice that the Celtics got this win and in convincing fashion so the media coverage from now until Friday night will be tolerable…
Yet the feeling remains of knowing this team has to go on the road into LeBron’s castle and try to eliminate him. It’s a perfectly shitty LeBron James storm that I’ve seen one too many times.
At home. Facing elimination. Rested from tapping out in Game 5. Legacy impact.
Those are the moments where LeBron explodes for 55, 14, & 12… I’m budgeting in an all-time performance from him on Friday night. I know it’s coming.
The difference this time is that I still believe the Celtics can put themselves in a position to close this thing out even if LeBron has a classic outing. Friday night is one hell of a night to get rid of the road woes. I know the Celtics feel the same way.
On to the next one.