After the Boston Celtics won Game 4 at home, thanks in large part to point guard, Rajon Rondo’s triple-double, the Cleveland Cavaliers were faced with several major questions in the 48 hours going into Game 5: Who would guard Rondo? Would it be Cavaliers’ forward LeBron James? And if so, would that leave Celtics’ forward, Paul Pierce, and guard Ray Allen the opportunity to each have a good offensive game?
Tuesday night, Allen scored a team-high 25 points, hitting 6 shots from beyond the arc, leading the Celtics to a dominating 120-88 win over the Cavaliers at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, giving the Celtics a 3-2 series lead, and pushing the Cavaliers to the brink in the best-of-seven series. It was the Cavaliers’ worst home loss in playoff history.
James had a night to forget. He went 3-for-14, missing all 4 shots from 3-point range, finishing the night with only 15 points. By the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers’ fans were not booing the visiting Celtics, they were booing James and his teammates.
A question the Celtics had been facing going into Game 5 was the recent sub-par play of Pierce. Some questioned whether or not he was injured, talk Pierce shot down, reminding the press that he was guarding league MVP, James, and he was finding himself in frequent foul trouble each night. On Tuesday night, Pierce scored 21 points on 9-of-21 shooting, and grabbed 11 rebounds. Celtics forward, Kevin Garnett added 18 points and 6 rebounds.
So what about Rondo? The center of all the attention was held scoreless in the first half, although Celtics’ head coach, Doc Rivers gave Rondo some much needed rest in the second quarter. In the second half, Rondo went off and scored 16 points. After the game, when asked about the rest, he said he would have rather played the full 48 minutes.
While Rondo was resting in the second and fourth quarters, the Celtics were getting good production from their bench. Forward, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, led the Celtics’ bench with 15 points and 4 rebounds. Guard, Tony Allen, scored 6 points, and added 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
After the game, James was answering questions about everything from the loss, his free agent status, and his sprained elbow and bone bruise. He refused to use the injury as an excuse for his bad night, and said he just missed open shots. When asked if he thought about Game 5 possibly being his final home game in Cleveland, James said he hadn’t thought about it. James is set to become a free agent once the season ends, and is expected to test the free agent waters.
If there was any bright spot for the Cavaliers, it was the play of veteran center, Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal led the Cavaliers with 21 points, going 7-for-10 at the free-throw line (impressive, given that his career free-throw percentage is 52.7%).
With 5 minutes left to go in the game, there were only about 4,000 fans left in the arena, including Cavaliers’ owner, Dan Gilbert. According to ESPN, Gilbert felt the team’s poor performance fell short of expectations, and Cavaliers’ fans and supporters deserved more.
The Celtics will try to close the series out in Game 6 at the TD Garden in Boston on Thursday night. If they win, they will go on to play the Orlando Magic who swept the Atlanta Hawks. If the Cavaliers can stave off elimination for at least one night, they will force a Game 7, and force the series back to Cleveland. Game 6 is at 8 on ESPN.