After taking a commanding 2-0 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers, many saw an imminent sweep. The Celtics would become the first team since, well, the 2010 Celtics. But in typical LeBron James fashion, his team dominated Boston twice at the Q, netting up the series at two games apiece. Heading back to Boston, where the Celtics haven’t lost a game, Boston looks to regain control. Will LeBron James prevail again? The FPC NBA staff answers this pressing question in this roundtable discussion.
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Although I was confident that LeBron James and the Cavaliers would bounce back at home and win both games, I did not expect it to happen in such dominant fashion. Aside from a two-point lead early in game four, Boston hasn’t sniffed a significant lead in 96 minutes. I am incredibly impressed with the Cavs’ role players contributions, specifically their offense getting a little more motion to supplement James. Although LeBron isolations are incredibly effective, they won’t win you games alone. It is clear that besides Marcus Smart, no Celtic can bother James one on one. Terry Rozier has been great for Boston on offense but he is a complete and utter liability on the defensive end. Almost every time he switches onto LeBron, bad things happen.
Despite their momentum, Cleveland has an incredibly difficult task ahead of them. Beating the Celtics, who are 9-0 in the postseason at home, will not be easy. The Cavs have shown an ability to play with the Celtics at the TD Garden; they led Boston for two and a half quarters in game two before falling apart. If Boston wants to regain control of this series, they need to show that they can guard LeBron like they did in game one and must be able to win on the road. For Cleveland, they need to hope their role players continue to produce at a high rate. This series looks to go down to the wire.
It sure does seem like it doesn’t it? However, a return trip to the TD Garden may be all the doctor ordered for the Celtics. Abysmal shooting has low-lighted their two-game stint in Cleveland. As a team, they shot .392 from the field in game three and .412 in game four. Al Horford, Terry Rozier, and Jayson Tatum combined to go 16-of-41 in game four. By contrast, in two games in Boston, the team shot .471 collectively en route to a 2-0 series lead. Not only were the opportunities there for the Celtics at times in Cleveland, they were easy. At one point in game four, the Celtics were 3-of-15… from the rim. Horford and Tatum were culprits of some of those misses. Now, surely, that can’t happen in Boston, right?
The one thing working in the Celtics favor is that this is what they have been throughout the postseason. A true Jekyll-and-Hyde team. Evident by their 9-0 record at home and a 1-6 record on the road where they, at times, look inept on the court. With that being said, a win in game five could erase all the angst built up from their time in Cleveland. And, by virtue of their home court advantage, they don’t have to win in Cleveland to win the series. So, in an odd way, the Celtics haven’t lost control of the series. However, if they suffer their first loss of the postseason at home on Wednesday, all bets are off.
In my eyes, yes, the momentum has completely shifted. Losing a 2-0 lead just like that to the best and most experienced player in the game usually doesn’t bode well for a young team. I just don’t see a way LeBron will let this series get away from him. However, if there’s one team that could stay composed through this, it’s the Celtics.
I might believe that if they lost one of their opening two games. But the Celtics are showing how much playing at home means to them, even though homecourt advantage should mean nothing in basketball. I mean, unlike all other major sports, the dimensions are the same. Back to my point, the Celtics have consistently shown us that they are a team that excels playing at home. This series is no different, aside from the fact that they are playing the best player in the world. Their youngsters will produce better results with having their home fans cheering them on.