What started off as a blitzkrig of a first quarter for the Cav’s continued throughout the game, as Lebron put up a 44-5-3 on 17-for-28 shooting. This is the Lebron James we’ve come to expect, and the one we saw in Game 2, however the bigger difference between last nights game and Game two wasn’t just the outcome – the rest of the Cavaliers brought their game.
The achilles heel for the Celtics has always been, “Can they score enough to stay in the game”, and that was evident in Game 3, when their otherworldly shooting spree finally regressed to their mean. But Game 4 brought a different question into play, “Can the young guys handle the pressure on the road?”
The answer is a resounding, “not really”.
The Celtics are 10-0 at home this season, but have only managed to win a single away game in three series. To say this team is young is an understatement. For all the hoopla Philly received for their young core, the Celtics are strolling out four out of their 8 rotational players under 24 years old. This team is not built for a hostile environment, and while they’ve shown determination and poise throughout the playoffs, they’re still going against an automatic finals ticket in Lebron.
Lebron had his way last night (with a little help from the referees), and got to the rim at will. And that was actually fine. Sometimes you just have to let one player get his, and lock down the rest. The Celtics usual sought defense collapsed last night in missed rotations, and getting out-rebounded by Thompson and Nance. When the defense isn’t clicking for the Celtics, their offense suffers as well.
Foul trouble didn’t help the situation, but at some point the players just have to shoot better than 41% from the field and 32% from three. Forcing the Cavs to turn it over 18 times to the Celtics nine didn’t result in the opportunities they should have converted on.
The Cavaliers have their formula – Lebron plays out of his mind, and the role players hit their open shots. They’re not trying to hold the Celtics offense to any particular score (although their effort on defense and contesting shots as increase dramatically from the first two games). No, they know the Celtics are their own worst enemy on offense. A Marcus Morris ISO that leads to a missed fade-a-way, or one too many passes that lead to a shot clock violation. When the Celtics aren’t humming on offense, they don’t have that singular player who can create and just get a bucket when you need to stop a run. Those two players are in street clothes.
It’s a three game series now, and the Cavaliers have a blueprint – Lebron has to do Lebron things and they need minimal efficiency from the rest of the team. The Celtics have a blueprint too – let their defense fuel their offense.
At the end of the day, sometimes you just need to hit your shots, and that’s the story for both teams. The question is – can the Celtics hold strong at home, or can the Cavs steal one in the Garden?
I’d put my money on an exciting Game Seven.