Cavaliers vs. Celtics: Jayson Tatum steps up, LeBron James looks tired as Boston dominates Game 5
The Cavs are one loss away from elimination, and the Celtics are knocking on the door of the NBA Finals
So apparently nobody in this series is going to lose at home. The Boston Celtics stayed undefeated at the TD Garden this postseason with a 96-83 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 on Wednesday night. The teams will now head to Cleveland for Game 6 on Friday, when the Celtics will try to clinch a trip to the NBA Finals.
Here are some takeaways from Game 5.
Rookie Jayson Tatum burst onto the scene in his first postseason, scoring 20-plus points in seven straight games against the Bucks and the 76ers. In the conference finals, however, he had yet to top the 20-point mark -- he picked a pretty good time to do it. Tatum finished with 24 points and was aggressive early, putting his wide array of moves on display while Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier struggled through subpar offensive games (7-of-30 combined from the field). The great thing about this version of the Celtics is that a different player seems to step up during every win, and in Game 5 it was Tatum's turn.
LeBron out of gas?
Watching what LeBron James has been doing night after night in these playoffs, sometimes we take for granted that he's actually a human being -- at least we think he is. Tyronn Lue admitted that James looked tired on Wednesday, and he was seen throughout the game grabbing his shorts and hunching over to catch his breath. You have to wonder if LeBron dropped down into a lower gear after Boston took an early double-digit lead. His numbers were still great for a normal person (26 points, 10 rebounds, five assists), but fell well short of his lofty standard.
LeBron's been around long enough to think in terms of a series, not just a single game, and he knows that he still has a home game to tie things up before a potential Game 7. James tends to read his teammates, and perhaps he figured they just didn't have it in Game 5, and chose to save his energy for the monumental effort that Cleveland will inevitably require from him in the next two games.
Home sweet home
Another home Celtics playoff game, another win -- this is getting ridiculous. Boston improved to 10-0 in home games this postseason, as this young squad continues to feed off the energy from the TD Garden crowd. They're the first team to win 10 straight home games in a single postseason since the 1997 Utah Jazz. Judging by how poorly the Celtics have played on the road, and how well the Cavs have played at home, Boston might need its crowd once again for a possible Game 7 on Sunday.
Stevens plays the Baynes card
After being thoroughly wrecked by Tristan Thompson in Game 4, Brad Stevens decided enough was enough and started Aron Baynes at center, moving Marcus Morris to the bench. Baynes, who started alongside Al Horford for the majority of the regular season, made an impact on the game immediately. He finished with six points, seven rebounds and three blocks, while helping hold Thompson to just one point and one offensive rebound, well short of his 13-point, 12-rebound Game 4 performance. Stevens said after the game that starting Baynes also allowed him to have two wings off the bench (Morris and Marcus Smart), which helped with his rotations.
It will be interesting to see if Lue counters by sending Thompson back to the bench in favor of Kyle Korver in Game 6, though that seems unlikely at this point.
LeBron's last stand?
It's crazy to think about, but Game 6 could end up being LeBron's last as a member of the Cavaliers. Nobody knows what he's going to do this offseason (he might not even know), but Cleveland fans better savor the moment on Sunday just in case. If the Cavs lose at home in Game 6 to a Celtics team missing its two best players, the front office is going to have a lot of work to do to keep LeBron around.
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