Cavs Win the East—again: Cavs-Celtics Game 5, Behind the Box Score

Cleveland Cavaliers – 135
Boston Celtics – 102
[Box Score]

For the third-consecutive year, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to the NBA Finals. A LeBron James-led team brings with it the highest expectations, and the inevitability of this year’s Finals matchup has made the daily greatness harder to appreciate. But a Cleveland team, a defending champion Cleveland team no less, just dominated the Boston Celtics, 135-102 and are just four wins away from winning back-to-back titles.

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The Cavs did it on the back of all-time scoring leader in the NBA playoffs and possibly greatest player of all time, LeBron James. They did it while losing only one game through the first three rounds of the playoffs. They did it with the best offense in the playoffs, with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love playing some of the best basketball they’ve ever played and with Tristan Thompson growing into a star of his own.

They didn’t just do all those things, they did them in impressive fashion. In the deciding Game 5, Cleveland jumped out to a 16-point first quarter lead on the back of a franchise playoff record 43 points. They maintained that pace for the duration of the game, reaching an NBA playoff record 75 points by halftime and crossing the century mark before the end of the third quarter on their way to their 12th win in 13 games this postseason.

The Big Three each took turns carrying the offense, with Love following the Cavs normal trend of getting the first few looks in order to get No. 0 in rhythm from the start.

Irving followed his incredible performance in Game 4 with more spectacular moves. His ability to not only get to the rim, but finish the play is incredible. You can argue that he is one of the best under-the-rim finishers in NBA history.

If it’s possible to be more exciting than Irving’s winding, twisting, spinning layups, he is again hitting his pull-up three-point attempts, making him nearly impossible to guard. Boston found that out the hard way.

The Celtics just had no answer for James’ mix of size and speed, much like the NBA hasn’t had an answer since the day he was drafted. He was able to bully anyone in front of him on his way to the rim, almost making it seem like he was a grown man against boys at times.

But No. 23 was also hitting from long distance after being hesitant from long-range after proving that he was in fact human in Game 3.

But, in what is always a sign of the Cavaliers clicking, James, Irving, and Love found other ways to contribute as well. James added eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block. Irving created good looks for his teammates and played solid defense, along with adding seven assists and two steals. Love was again the game’s leading rebounder with 11 rebounds and added three assists and four steals as well.

The Cavaliers also got production from their bench unit. Deron Williams scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and provided a spark for the second unit, Kyle Korver hit two threes that helped stop any momentum going Boston’s way, and James Jones, he of seven straight Finals appearances, had this amazing put-back dunk:

This is most likely the best Cavs team that will ever exist. It may be the best Cleveland team to ever exist, period. Like a lot of those past teams, they may not win it all this year, but that shouldn’t change how we appreciate and celebrate them. This run has been incredible. LeBron James has been incredible. This moment is incredible. Enjoy it, Cleveland.

Let’s look behind the box score at this one:

10 – Players that scored multiple baskets for the Cavaliers in this game.

25.8 – Points averaged by Kyrie Irving during the Eastern Conference Finals.

0 – Leads held by Boston in their three home games during the Eastern Conference Finals. This Cavaliers team is not scared of a hostile environment on the road. In fact, LeBron has hinted that he prefers it.

6 – Days off until Game 1 of the NBA Finals on June 1.

0 – Minutes head coach Tyronn Lue claims he has spent preparing for the Golden State Warriors. Also the number of people who believe him.

120 – LeBron took 120 fewer shots than Michael Jordan on his way to becoming the all-time leading playoff scorer in the playoffs.

Enjoy the early bedtimes for the next six days before the Finals begin (all the Finals games start at 9 p.m. ET). And enjoy this team!

  • Chris

    That last stat is incredible. I knew LeBron has played in more games than MJ, but didn’t realize he was that much more efficient.

    Plus, he’s pretty good at other stuff too. Third all time in assists, seventh all time in rebounds, second all time in steals. He’s got like 600 rebounds to go to be top five in all four… he’ll almost certainly pass Mail Man for 6th. He could sniff top 10 in blocks too, but that’s unlikely.

    It’s been a treat to watch.

  • Harv

    “This is most likely the best Cavs team that will ever exist. It may be the best Cleveland team to ever exist, period.”

    This all day. This roster consists of a top 3 in history in his prime, a still improving historically great shotmaker and ball handler, a perennial all star, a couple of guys with extreme if narrow skill sets fighting to be better rounded (Tristan, J.R.) and a slew of fading stars with various amounts of gas in the take. The mighty ’95 Indians had to hit their way past only passable starting pitching and shockingly bad defense at three or four positions. The Browns of the ’50s had hall of famers and one of history’s great innovators, but clearly better than these Cavs? This team can coast or lose focus on a dime. They also can beat anybody, including that team from the Bay acclaimed as the greatest ever. Should they somehow, some way, repeat, the Warriors narrative immediately flips from historical to underachieving, a sort of roundball Atlanta Braves of the 90s. And the Cavs are now … what?

  • JM85

    Watching the Big 3 click like this is great to watch. It’s what everyone envisioned before they came together. And don’t be so quick to crown the Warriors either. This could be an all time Finals.

  • RGB

    People forget how great that ’54 Indians team was, because they didn’t win it all.
    That team should be in this conversation.

  • Harv

    The Celtics were gonna lose no matter what, but the common narrative is how freaking brilliant and scrappy they are. Ok, so why did brilliant Ainge decide to throw gazillions at Al Horford to help them get past the Cavs? In his last 3 playoff series against the Cavs, Horford has helped his teams win exactly 1 game, and that was really the Cavs losing focus and a huge late lead.

    And I need something objective to justify the Stepford Wives-like Brad Stevens adulation sweeping the nation. Maybe he is the second coming of John Wooden, but sure feels premature. He’s been dealt a playmaker deficient roster but his teams always play with incredible discipline and intensity – except when they do not, like in games 1, 2, the first half of game 3, the second half of game 4, and all of game 5. Something in this narrative feels optics driven, reminiscent of the 80’s when suave and white Pat Riley was the mastermind responsible for the Showtime of Magic, Kareem and Worthy, but the Celtics’ K.C. Jones was (codeword-codeword) savvy enough to just let the brilliant Bird, McHale and Parrish win the rings.

    One more Horford: on the bully ball LeBron video above, his “help defense” is a solid example of what the great Hubie Brown agonizes over: where are you? If you are not HERE and not THERE … where are you?

  • Harv

    was thinking of them, but that historically great staff and a few great position players had one dominant year. That team out east was significantly better.

  • Chris

    Good eye. Horford had absolutely nothing guarded and left Rozier 1-on-1 with LeBron and left Bradley to cover both Love and JR on the perimeter. LeBron could have driven (which he did) or still kicked out for a 3. Horford has to at least take one of those away. LeBron will usually beat you regardless of which option he’s given, but if you let him choose, you’re toast.

  • tigersbrowns2

    congrats to the Cavs ! … now , the match-up everyone wanted / predicted … why didn’t they just skip the regular season ?

  • Eric G

    They should have just had a best of 81 with these two teams

  • formerbrownsfan

    I disagree on Stevens. This a really meh team with a meh superstar that made it to the ECF and at times competed well against an all time great team.

  • tigersbrowns2

    good post HARV.

  • Harv

    and my point is with meh talent they could at least compete hard. They failed to do that except for a handful of quarters out of 5 games. Both Toronto and Indiana played harder and didn’t see any discernible coaching advantage. Deciding not to send help on LeBron so that he could switch onto Olynyk over and over? Not saying Stevens isn’t competent or one day may be great. Saying: show me why that’s the case now.

  • Steve

    The 95 Indians were second best in MLB at run prevention.

  • Steve

    “to help them get past the Cavs”

    I’m not sure anyone thought it would get them past the Cavs. In a maximum contract environment, it is very easy to sign very good players to contracts with surplus value, and there’s a lot of value in selling out the arena every night for a 50 win team and keeping yourself in a position for when you can get that superstar, as you’ve got the supporting cast already set. Especially when you seemingly have all of Brooklyn’s draft picks for the next five years.

    Frustratingly enough, I think Boston has done exactly what a team in the same conference as Lebron should do. They’ve build a solid roster, they’ve acquired valuable draft picks they can use to get a star, they can create cap space each of the next couple years if a star wants to come in free agency. They haven’t burned through their cap space or traded their picks away chasing every last possible win that many teams do.

  • tsm

    I didn’t see him play, but many consider Otto the greatest QB ever. He was one tremendous athlete, and didn’t have the advantage of all the subsequent rule changes to open up the offenses, especially the passing game. He would be the comparable to LBJ and when you add in Motley, Gluefingers, Speedy, Groza etc. I will simply consider it a tie. As much as I don’t like the – they were better back in the old days statements – I equally don’t like – the old timers had less competition and weren’t the athletes the modern guys are. Having said all of this, I am savoring every moment, and will defend LBJ against any professional athlete in any team sport.

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