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Game Preview: Cavs-Celtics Game 5 milestones and breakdown

Cleveland Cavaliers (2nd Seed) vs Boston Celtics (1st Seed)

Eastern Conference Finals – Game Five

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UPCOMING MILESTONES:  LeBron James needs just 28 more points to pass Michael Jordan for the most points in NBA playoff history. In addition, he is four three-pointers away from making the 3rd most in NBA postseason history – passing Manu Ginobili. With four rebounds, Tristan Thompson pulls down the 2nd most in Cavaliers’ postseason history, passing Zydrunas Ilgauskas. With six rebounds, Kevin Love passes Larry Nance for 6th on the franchise postseason rebounding list, and with two points, he passes Hot Rod Williams for 7th in Cavaliers’ playoff scoring. Finally, the Cavaliers are currently 12-0 in series clinching games going back to 2009 – tying the L.A. Lakers (2000-2004) for the longest consecutive streak.

Up 3-1, the Cavaliers now look to close out the series on the road. Despite reportedly dealing with a sickness as of late, LeBron James will set his sights on clinching his seventh straight Finals appearances tonight, while also finding himself just 28 points away from making history and passing Michael Jordan on the NBA Career Playoff Scoring leaderboard. Despite a rocky start in Game Four and a 10 point deficit at half time, the Big Three found their respective grooves in the second half, and helped to propel the Cavaliers above the Celtics to a 112-99 victory.

In Game Four, Kyrie Irving set a personal best for playoff scoring, dropping 42 much needed points on 68.2% shooting. Even when tightly guarded, Irving still found success, making 72.2% of the 18 shots he took while contested. Meanwhile, Kevin Love showed his worth down low as he set a personal best for playoff rebounding, pulling down 17 rebounds. On the Celtics end, they had four players scoring 15 or more – Avery Bradley (19), Jae Crowder (18), Al Horford (16), and Kelly Olynyk (15) – but no one with over 20 points. Overall, they shot 44.3% from the field (15.2% lower than the Cavaliers) and 32.3% from three (13.2% lower than the Cavaliers).

The only Cavaliers’ player with a negative +/- was Iman Shumpert, who was outscored by just three points on the court. Meanwhile, not a single Celtics player was on the court when they outscored the Cavaliers. In terms of pace-adjusted Net Rating (an average of points per 100 possessions that a team outscores their opponents when a player is on the court), the worst four Boston players who played over 10 minutes were Terry Rozier (-27.1), Jae Crowder (-19.2), Jaylen Brown (-17.2), and Al Horford (-17.1). The best Net Rating on the Celtics belonged to Kelly Olynyk, who still posted a -1.6. For the Cavaliers, Kyle Korver came out on top for Net Rating, earning a +29.2, despite not taking a single shot in his entire 20:12 minutes. Instead, he put forth effort into spacing the floor and performing on defense. With Isaiah Thomas still out the rest of the series, the offense has continued to run through Marcus Smart, who for the second consecutive game led both teams in touches (100) and passes (82).

Three keys for Game Five will be: (1) pass the ball, and find the open man. The Cavaliers continue to pass much less than the Celtics, with 99 fewer total passes in Game Four. (2) Continue to pressure the shot on defense. The Celtics shot just 33.3% while contested, as opposed to their 53.5% when uncontested last game. (3) Get all three of the Big Three going. Combined, they accounted for 83.0% of the total points, 67.6% of the total rebounds, and 65.2% of the total assists.

Key players to watch for on the Celtics will be Al Horford (averaging 15.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per playoff game), Avery Bradley (averaging 15.9 points per playoff game), and Jae Crowder (averaging 13.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per playoff game).

Tipoff is set for 8:30 EST and will be broadcast on TNT.

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