The Cavaliers fell to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 96-83 in what was a pretty sloppy offensive game for both teams. Here’s three things we learned during the disappointing showing.
1. The Cavs’ rotations are still REALLY questionable at times.
Let’s knock out what the most glaring issues were with the lineups tonight.
Both LeBron James and Kevin Love sat to start the fourth quarter with the Cavs down 16. While that is Love’s normal rest time, head coach Tyronn Lue said after the game that James still wasn’t ready to come back in the game at this moment.
But moving on to perhaps the most egregious mistake that Cleveland made rotation wise. Kyle Korver has really settled into being the team’s third option, and yet, he didn’t see the court in either the first or third quarters. Was he feeling sore from all that effort he expended in Game 4? Was his foot acting up? Countless questions arose in my head as this game wore on when it came to Korver’s playing time.
Not one of those theories was what the actual answer ended up being: the fact that his matchup didn’t play.
“Well, initially (Brad Stevens) has been putting (Semi) Ojeleye in, so that’s been Kyle’s matchup when he comes in the game,” Lue said. “But he didn’t play him tonight, so it kind of threw us through a loop.”
At this stage of the playoffs, that reasoning just isn’t going to cut it, especially when your starting backcourt struggles to make any kind of imprint on the game (more on that in a minute).
2. The Celtics are a lot more comfortable shooting the three-ball at home.
Really, the splits in this category are just ridiculous. On the road in this series, the Celtics are averaging just 25 three-point attempts per game. At home, that number jumps to 33.3 attempts.
Tonight, the Celtics shot 13-of-39 from three-point land, outscoring the Cavs by 12 points in that category.
It’s not surprising that the Celtics are more comfortable taking those shots at home. But the Cavs have to do something, anything, defensively to throw them off in TD Garden if they make it to a Game 7.
3. The mysterious case of the disappearing backcourt continues.
J.R. Smith and George Hill both played decent in Games 3 and 4 in Cleveland. Hill put up 13 points in each game while Smith put up 11 and 9.
While it seemed like the two playoff vets had finally found an offensive groove in this series, on Wednesday night they once again disappeared on the offensive end, combining for just nine points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field.
When neither are aggressive, the Cavs offense gets a lot more stagnant (something we saw in Game 5) and allows the Boston defense to zone in on James.
Obviously, the Cavs are infinitely better when the guards play well. But even if they are just average? That certainly helps — they just can’t afford to be practically non-existent.