May 23, 2018
The Q was the place to be this past Monday night in downtown Cleveland, as the Cavaliers hosted the Boston Celtics for Game 4 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. Using the same “playoff experienced” lineup as last game, Cleveland was hopeful to get off to the same start as last game. But, the Celtics matched the intensity of the Cavs and tried to establish their inside game. But once JR “Swish” Smith got started, the Cavs would not look back, with this team hitting back to back to back three-point plays. The hustle from the Celtics was apparent early, but the Cavs played solid defense while also having their three-point stroke locked in. The Cavs defense was stingy and held players like Jaylen Brown in check for the better part of the first half. The Celtics started to settle for mid-range jump shots, and this would set the tone and establish the Cavs as the enforcers tonight. The Celtics made a run at the end of the half with but the timely three balls were far too deadly to keep the Celtics within reach. With less than a minute remaining, LeBron James had 22 points off of 8-10 shooting, and this high level of play spread throughout the Cavaliers. The second half began with a Celtic run and even got the point differential to single digits, but LeBron began to play more “bully ball” and this allowed the Cavs to maintain a strong hold on the game. Tristan Thompson brings an enthusiastic motor and displayed this by staying with Terry Rozier and blocking his shot which led to a LeBron layup on the other end. The Cavs as a whole played with confidence, and actually looked to score, rather than just look at LeBron. George Hill, Kyle Korver, JR Smith, Larry Nance, and Tristan Thompson all aggressively looked for their shot, and the front court always looked to crash the offensive glass to get easy second chance points. The Celtics did chip at the lead slowly due to Cavalier turnovers, and with about 4 minutes remaining it was a 7-point game. The Cavalier players did a good job of milking time and getting quality shots at the end of the shot clock, but Lebron but a dagger in any thought of a comeback when he hit a three ball with 1:45 remaining to make it a 14-point game. It was his 6th game with 40+ points in this year’s playoffs, and this effort would lead the Cavs to a 111-102 win over the cooling Celtics.
Statistically, the Celtics were beaten in “bully ball” categories which include rebounding, blocks, and points in the paint. The physicality is what beat the Celtics, and it is sometimes hard for younger players to match the same physicality of veterans. One, because they do not have the respect of the referees and two, because they just haven’t physically matured or experienced for this playoff physicality like others who have been in the league and playoffs before. It is becoming apparent that the Celtics are a good team but are missing key pieces (Kyrie Irving and Gordon Heyward) that will inevitably be their demise.
The Cavs hit timely threes in Game 4, and I expect that we will see a three-point onslaught in Boston for the wine and gold. The Cavs will continue their trend of “bully ball” and bring the series home with a 3-2 lead. I have nothing against Boston, I’m actually a fan of many of their players, but they are too young and inexperienced to dethrone the King.
Game 5 will be played in Boston on Wednesday May 23, 2018 on ESPN at 8:30pm. Will the Celtics remain perfect at home in the playoffs to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Final or is LeBron looking to take the series home for an elimination game so he can reach the NBA Finals for the eighth straight year in a row
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