If tonight’s Game 5 of the Cavaliers-Celtics Eastern Conference Semifinals is anything like the first four contests of this back-and-forth series, then it should be exciting – but unpredictable:
- Game 1: Boston blows a double-digit lead in Cleveland and the Cavs take the series opener.
- Game 2: The C’s dominate Cleveland and win by 18 at the Q.
- Game 3: LeBron James displays his MVP’ness and the Cavaliers hand the Celtics their worst home playoff loss in franchise history.
- Game 4: Rajon Rondo puts up an extreme triple-double at the Garden and leads his team to a win with 29 points, 18 boards and 13 assists to tie up the series.
Only two players in NBA history have put up more dominating playoff triple-doubles – Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. That’s a V.I.P. section, no doubt. Doc has made a key strategic adjustment to capitalize on Rondo’s aggressive play on offense: he’s been playing Wallace and Garnett on the floor together in order to give Boston two shooting bigs who can hit shots from 17 feet and beyond when Rondo penetrates and dishes out.
Yes, there were many other noteworthy subplots Game 4 – like the Celtics finally protecting a second half lead and turning away a mighty Cavaliers’ challenge. Captain Paul Pierce continued to struggle on the offensive end while Celtics’ reserve and defensive specialist Tony Allen contributed in the points column. And both teams launched bricks from 3-point range with the C’s shooting 1-14 and the Cavs going 4-21.
Heading into this series Doc Rivers and the rest of the Celtics coaching staff knew that LeBron James would be nearly impossible to contain. But did you think that Cavaliers coach Mike Brown would possibly have to resort to having #23 check Rajon Rondo? Halfway into Game 2 Brown took Mo Williams off Rondo and put Anthony Parker on him. But tonight it may be necessary for James to guard fellow All-Defensive First Teamer Rondo in order to shut down the C’s fourth year phenom.
This raises another question: If Mike Brown does take LeBron off of Paul Pierce and puts him on Rondo, will that let Pierce finally get going in this series? So far he’s averaged just under 12 ppg and shot 32% from floor and 22% from 3-point line over the last four games.
With the other three semifinals series already completed with 4-0 sweeps, the eyes of the basketball world will be tightly focused on Game 5 in Cleveland, Ohio tonight. Besides the obvious rooting interests of fans in Boston and Cleveland, a few New Yorkers will be watching King James’ every move and reaction as well, interested in the outcome of the Cavaliers’ season for entirely different reasons. If the Celtics were to take Games 5 and 6, this could in fact be LeBron’s last game in the Q as a Cavalier. Hoop fans love drama and TNT knows drama.
Dick Stockton and I have the call along with David Aldridge on the sidelines at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.