By Kevin Henkin
Ho hum. Another home playoff game, another victory for the Boston Celtics, 96-89 at the expense of the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the end, Boston played just well enough to win, likely leaving Cleveland with that nagging feeling that they let another road game squeak away from them.
The Big Three for Boston (in this case, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, in that order) combined for 75 of Boston’s points, helping their team overcome another poor offensive start to the game. Rondo in particular was ubiquitous, especially in the second half where he played for the duration (and which may indicate the end of the failed Sam Cassell Experiment). Rondo finished with a line of 20 points, 2 steals and 13 assists offset by only 1 turnover. Of note, his counterpart Delonte West also submitted a strong effort with 21 points.
LeBron James had the Celtics back on their heels early with a break-out first half effort of 23 points. He ended up with 35 for the evening but it wasn’t enough to close the gap from Boston’s stellar third quarter, which proved to be the difference in the game. In the third, Boston locked down on defense, limiting Cleveland to 17 while simultaneously resurrecting their own offense to the tune of 29 points. In the fourth, Cleveland and James recovered their flow but the Celtics were able to sustain their own offensive production, essentially mathcing baskets until time ran out for the Cavaliers.
From Boston’s perspective, despite the comforts of home, they were forced to overcome an enormous advantage at the free throw line in Cleveland’s favor. Specifically, the Cavaliers took 41 trips to the stripe versus only 23 by the Celtics. Cleveland, however, helped Boston’s cause by missing a crucial (and some would say game-deciding) 13 freebies. Anderson Varejao was the worst offender, going 2-6 from the line. (Wanna get away?)
Otherwise, the game played out pretty much as expected, with Cleveland hanging tough but eventually giving way to the home favorite. Considering the uncannily repetitive nature of the playoffs for Boston thus far, it’s hard to say much else that feels new and fresh at this point. Therefore, in an effort to spice things up a bit, the remainder of my analysis will be done in a Mad Libs format.
Some other thoughts on the game:
Ray Allen submitted another profound performance, with 11 points on 4-11 shooting. Many of those misses were open looks, which caused most Boston fans to want to ladle themselves over the head with a tugboat.
Neither bench was much of a factor in Game 5. Cleveland’s produced only 13 slimy points while Boston’s bench contributed 9. The Celtics in particular relied garrulously on their starters, with only Kendrick Perkins playing under 40 minutes. Perkins’s minutes have been limited recently because of foul trouble and his level of play of late that can only be compared to a rhinoceros in a ladies room.
Sam Cassell, as noted above, played like a banana peel. At least Doc Rivers finally used his bellybutton and left Cassell sitting on the candybar for the rest of the game after another damp effort by his backup point guard in the first half.
Looking forward to Game 6 in Cleveland, the Celtics must overcome their drunken tendencies and fruity play on the road. Otherwise, they will be doomed to repeat geometry.