It is not often that one can make a case that Game 5 is a must win for both teams, but here we are. The Celtics literally must win to stay alive in the playoffs as they trail in the series 3-1. At the same time, the Cavs have to feel as though the longer that they let this series go on, the more they will be at a disadvantage when the NBA Finals begin on June 1st. The Warriors have already dispatched of the Spurs and wait in the wings for a potential rubber match with the Cavs. The Celtics played much better on the Cleveland swing of the series and need to redeem themselves in front of their home crowd after getting embarrassed in Games 1 and 2. The Cavs will be anxious to jump on the Celtics early, and take the crowd out of play as they get their first shot at closing them out.
What to Watch For
- The Boston Celtics will be playing in full desperation mode. After losing their star point guard, Isaiah Thomas, in Game 2, they have asserted themselves well against the Cavs. They will be playing for their playoff lives on Thursday, which brings with it a heightened level of intensity. With their home crowd behind them, the Celtics will be a formidable opponent. The Cavs will need to match the Celtics urgency in order to close out a pesky opponent.
- Since Thomas went down, Avery Bradley has been the guy for Boston. He dropped in 20 points along with the game-winning triple in Game 3 and led the Celtics with 19 points in Game 4. The Cavs will likely tag team Bradley with a combination of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in hopes to slow him down. Boston will need a big performance from Bradley to extend the series another game.
- When it comes to slamming the door shut on opponents in the playoffs, the Cavs have been fantastic. They have had 12 series clinching opportunities since 2009 and successfully ended their opponents season in each of those 12 games.
- The Cavs ‘Big Three’ had their best scoring game ever in Game 4, combining for 93 points. Kevin Love has looked more comfortable in wine and gold than ever before this series and Boston has had no answer for him. He coming off of a 17 point, 17 rebound night in Game 4 and should be able to continue his dominance over the Boston front court in Game 5.
- Lebron is just 28 points away from passing Michael Jordan as the all-time leading scorer in postseason play. He is also 40 points away from being the only player in history to score over 6,000 career points in the playoffs. It will take an impressive defensive effort from the Celtics to prevent some history from being made in Game 5 and it’s possible he hits both marks Thursday night.
Fear The Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavs turned things around in grandiose fashion on Tuesday night. Now that the momentum has shifted back in favor of the Cavaliers, you can expect this series to run its course on Thursday night.
Boston will definitely come to play and play physical. Their desperation and defiant mental make-up will keep them in the game during the first half, but after a big Cleveland run in the third quarter, they will go quietly. Big games from Love and James are likely. Look for a Kyle Korver sighting, as he is due to get hot.
The Cavs will win 119-98 and wrap the series up in five games, James passes Jordan as the all-time leader in postseason scoring with 37 points.