It’s the continuation of the Eastern Conference Finals up in Beantown as the series moves back to the New England area. The fourth-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers are on the road as they square off with the second-seeded Boston Celtics for a pivotal Game 5 Wednesday night. Boston built off their strong showing in the conference semifinals as they pummeled Cleveland en route to a 108-83 win in Game 1 to draw first blood in the series. In Game 2, Boston showed their resiliency as they rallied for a 107-94 win to take a 2-0 series lead. With their backs to the wall, Cleveland earned their first win of the series with a 116-86 home rout Saturday night and followed that up with a 111-102 home win in Game 4 Monday to square the series. The Celtics lead the all-time regular season series 125-80 but the Cavaliers took two of three this season, including a 121-99 win here in the last matchup on February 11. In the postseason, Boston has won four of the seven series but Cleveland holds a 22-21 edge in head to head playoff wins.
Cleveland Cavaliers Try to Carry Home Momentum With Them On the Road
Cleveland bounced back from losing the first two games of the series by double figures on the road by winning Games 3 and 4 at home. That means that regardless of what takes place here, the Cavaliers will return to Quicken Loans Arena for Game 6, either with a chance to close it out or to try and force a decisive Game 7. Cleveland, as they did in Game 3, jumped out early to an advantage and halted Boston’s attempts to rally back into the contest. The Cavaliers were able to have success at home but can they have a similar attack on the road, where they are just 3-4 in the postseason?
The Cavaliers have improved shooting the ball in the postseason: after hitting only 43.1 percent as a team from the field against the Pacers, they are now shooting 46.3 percent in the playoffs. Cleveland’s perimeter shooting is mediocre: while they are making 10.5 three pointers a night, they’re shooting just 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers have been good at the line, cashing in 76.1 percent of their chances. Cleveland’s shooting was good in Game 4 as they hit 50.6 percent from the field despite going eight of 23 from three point range. The Cavaliers sank 21 of 29 free throws and controlled the boards by a 47-37 margin. Cleveland overcame 19 turnovers as they battled in the low block, winning the points in the paint skirmish by a 50-38 count. LeBron James had another huge game, leading the Cavaliers with 44 points in the win. Kyle Korver chipped in 14 off the bench, Tristan Thompson had 13 points plus 12 boards and George Hill added 13. Kevin Love was pretty much a non-factor as he finished three of 12 from the floor for nine points: he did finish with 11 rebounds but committed six turnovers. He will need to be better in Game 5 for certain if Cleveland wants to steal one on the road.
Boston Celtics Seek to Regroup at Home, Run Playoff Home Mark to 10-0
Boston was outplayed out of the gate in the first quarter of the two games in Cleveland and that set the tone for both contests. The Celtics never got back into the game in Game 3 and failed to make a sustained push in Game 4, dropping to 1-6 on the road in the postseason. The good news for Boston is that they return home here, where they are 9-0 in the postseason and should both teams hold serve in Games 5 and 6, the winner take all Game 7 would be here on Sunday. Of course, for that to be a factor, the Celtics have to get back to playing the way they did in the first two contests and put Cleveland on their heels early.
The Celtics have had their offensive struggles in the postseason, shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from beyond the arc entering the conference finals: they average 10.4 three pointers per game. Boston has been solid at the charity stripe as they sink 77.2 percent of their chances. In Game 3, the Celtics shot just 41.2 percent from the floor and knocked down only nine of 28 three point attempts in the contest. Boston did hit 23 of 30 free throws and scored 19 points off 19 Cleveland turnovers yet fell short. The Celtics were unable to dig out of a 16 point hole after the opening quarter: they would get no closer than seven the rest of the way. Jaylen Brown led Boston with 25 points in the loss though he started the game two for 11 from the field before hitting eight of his last 12. Jayson Tatum added 17 points, Terry Rozier put up 16 points, six rebounds plus 11 assists, Al Horford had 15 points and Marcus Morris contributed 10. Boston needs better showings from Marcus Smart (two of eight, eight points) in the rest of this series if they hope to advance.
- Cavaliers are 5-11 ATS in their last 16 Wednesday games
- Celtics are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game
- Celtics are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games following a straight up loss
- Celtics are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 Wednesday games
The home team has picked up the win in all four games in this series, which is going much like the Celtics’ first round matchup with the Bucks. In that series, which went the distance, home court advantage proved critical as Boston ended up prevailing in Game 7 to advance. The Cavaliers won two straight at home to turn this into a best of three series but the fact remains that they have had struggles on the road in the playoffs. After seeing how Boston has played at the TD Garden in the postseason and the comebacks they’ve made on this floor, you have to think they pick up a win here.
Pick: Boston Celtics +1
One thing that was extremely noticeable in Game 4 of the series was that the officials were a lot more aggressive when it came to whistling fouls. All told, there were 59 free throw attempts, 49 personal fouls and one technical in the contest. Love and Korver each finished with five fouls for Cleveland with Green right behind with four. Morris, Brown and Smart each had five for Boston and that hurt the Celtics: Morris was the primary defender on James but logged only 24 minutes because of his foul issues. Both teams severely shortened their rotations as Jordan Clarkson played just four minutes while Jose Calderon and Rodney Hood never got off the bench for Cleveland. For Boston, Greg Monroe was a DNP – CD while Semi Ojeleye logged only nine minutes. Which team can pick up the upper hand in this pivotal contest?
The under is 4-0 in the Cavaliers’ last 4 Wednesday games, 4-1 in their last 5 when their opponent scores 100 points or more in their previous game and 5-2 in their last seven against teams with a winning record. Boston has seen the under go 4-0 in their last 4 when their opponent allows 100 points or more in their previous game, 5-0 in their last 5 after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game and 5-2 in their last seven overall. The teams have stayed under the total in 10 of their last 13 meetings here and in five of their last seven overall, including three of the four games in this series. Expect another lower scoring game that falls short of the total by a couple of points.