June 24, 2018

The Playoff Experiment: Week Seven

The Eastern Conference Finals headed to Cleveland this week with the Boston Celtics holding a 2-0 series lead. But would those same Celtics show up on the road?

Game Three

I don’t know why, six weeks into watching the NBA, I just noticed this, but when did guys start wearing capri length leggings under their uniform shorts with tall socks? It is… a look, I guess. I’m sure there’s probably a reason, like knee support or something, but aesthetically it’s not the greatest.

As for things much easier on the eyes than those leggings, can we have a moment of appreciation for LeBron James’ three point shot? The Cavs were very hot with nine threes in the first half and LeBron had three of them. He also had this spectacular dunk to give Cleveland a 20 point lead.

The Celtics gave up a whole 61 points in the half. The threes obviously played a role, but it was still a shocking number to me given how well they usually play defense. Jaylen Brown got in foul trouble early, which was likely another factor.

After the break, the Cavs continued to completely dominate the game. Given Boston’s struggles on the road this post-season, they are fortunate to have had home court advantage. To win this series, all they have to do is continue to be perfect at home, although that’s easier said than done against LeBron.

It never did get any better for Boston as Cleveland absolutely rolled to the win. Would this be a wake-up call? One thing’s for sure: I hoped this would be the last blowout of the series because, outside of some highlight reel plays, it was very boring.

Game Four

The Celtics didn’t get off to a great start, even missing a couple dunks in the first quarter as they tried to bounce back from a very bad Game 3. Their defensive struggles also continued as they surrendered 68 points in the opening half.

In the second half, the Celtics did a good job of getting Kevin Love in foul trouble. Unfortunately, they had some trouble of their own as Marcus Morris also picked up his fifth foul. After trailing much of the game, they got the Cavs’ lead under 10 with two minutes left in the third quarter. And then they promptly gave up a basket and a foul on the other end after giving the Cavs multiple second chances at the hoop. That was pretty much the story of this game for Boston.

I love a good shot of an NBA parent and in this game we got a great one of Rozier’s mother wearing head to toe Celtics gear in the middle of a sea of Cavaliers fans. She had plenty to cheer about as her son assisted this great slam from Jayson Tatum.

Unfortunately, the late heroics of Rozier and Tatum weren’t enough to catch the Cavs. Cleveland maintained about a 10 point lead throughout the fourth quarter and evened the series.

Game Five

This game had a feeling of significance as Boston’s two game lead had evaporated in Cleveland and the threat of LeBron dominance was always there in the background. With the Celtics being undefeated at home and less solid on the road, it felt all the more important that they take this game in Boston.

The intensity of the game boiled over in the second quarter when Marcus Morris knocked Larry Nance Jr. out of bounds, stood over him, and said something. Nance waited until Morris turned his back and then pushed him. Both teams got together and Terry Rozier pushed Nance as well.

First of all, I don’t understand why teams keep trying to fight the Celtics. They have several guys who would love to get in your face, should you give them a reason. Even their peacekeeper is a nearly 7 foot tall former rugby player. Also, pushing a guy in the back is just pathetic. If you’re going to get a stupid foul, don’t embarrass yourself too.

The results were off-setting technicals for Morris and Nance, as well as one that counted on Rozier. I agree with the commentators who didn’t like that a taunt and a push were equal fouls. Taunting is a lame, ticky-tacky foul and pushing is very clearly an intentional escalation.

The home Celtics were back on their A game again with plays like this fourth quarter dunk from Al Horford. They pulled ahead for a lower-scoring, 96-83 win.

After the game, many commentators noted that LeBron looked tired and it’s easy to see why. He scored 26 points in 39 minutes, which is almost a third of Cleveland’s point total. Only Kevin Love reached double figures, and two starters – Tristan Thompson and JR Smith – had three combined points. LeBron also led the team in defensive rebounds and assists. LeBron was tired because it’s not easy to carry and entire NBA team on your back.

Game Six

Full disclosure, I was out at a happy hour that turned plural on the Friday night of Game 6 and didn’t see it. I also do not have the time or desire to watch a three hour game, of which I already know the outcome, on my DVR. So this recap is short and sweet.

The main thing I took away from reading about the game is that LeBron James refuses to be eliminated. He just says “nah” and the other team is toast. LeBron had a massive 46 points in the game and played all but two minutes. He led the Cavs in defensive rebounds, assists, and steals. If that weren’t enough, he also hit big shots at in the fourth quarter to put the lead out of reach and force Game 7.

Kevin Love left the game early with a concussion.

Game Seven

The deciding game of the Eastern Conference Finals came with no shortage of storylines. Kevin Love was ruled out due to the concussion he sustained in Game 6. Boston had never lost a series it led 2-0. LeBron had more points in Game 7s than anyone in history. He also knocked Al Horford out of the playoffs in each of the last three years.

The Boston crowd was loud early and the Celtics came out shooting. The Cavs stayed within striking distance, despite Marcus Smart’s best efforts. In the second quarter, he took a little contact from LeBron and then jumped backward like he was going to do a flip. He got the foul call. I don’t even know what else to say about it at this point.

With a few minutes left in the game, I had a really strong feeling that the Celtics were in trouble. They were trailing, not by a lot, but they couldn’t come all the way back. They were missing a lot of shots, committing bad fouls, and turning the ball over. Soon the Cavs had their largest lead of the game.

Jayson Tatum played really well for Boston, scoring 24 points. He even dunked on LeBron.

But Game 7 was all about – say it with me, you know the voice – LeBron James. He was a huge part of every play, especially in the fourth quarter. He did everything, he played every minute, and he even scored on a play where Marcus Morris was hanging on his shoulders like a child getting a piggyback ride. He is the reason why the Cavs won Game 7 and are going to the NBA Finals.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but it was kind of sad to see Boston’s run end. It’s not lost on me that I’ve spent over a month following a team that no one told me to follow, but I like their passion. I like watching their young stars and seeing writer Shea Serrano’s tweets about Al Horford being a dad.

I’m also excited to see what LeBron can do in the NBA Finals because Game 7 was so good. It had the close, ultra-competitive vibe I was waiting for. Everyone’s been saying the West is so much better than the East, but I can’t wait to see if the West is better than LeBron.

Nicole Gustafson 27 Articles
Editor

Nicole was born in Chicago and raised in Des Moines. She took her talents to The Iowa State University, where she earned a degree in journalism. You can find Nicole cheering on her favorite sports teams, hanging out with her dog, or finishing a Netflix marathon. Nicole is a big fan of #pitcherswhorake, fat guy TD's, and carbs. She's not a fan of mornings, winter, or vegetables and will complain to anyone who will listen.

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