The Algebra of … Passing the Torch? King’s deposing just a victory away
Here’s last night’s key stat -- .927. That represents Boston’s Defensive Rebounding Percentage for last night’s ECF Game 5. (The Cleveland Cavaliers’ OR% was .073.)
Ty Lue’s troops missed 43 FGA’s – one fewer than did the C’s – two of which were quarter-ending heaves. A Boston player rebounded 36 of the remaining 41 misfires, a Cleveland player just THREE. (Boston was awarded possession of the other two “clanks” by virtue of a Team Rebound.)
Ironically, the little Q2 Morris-Nance “dust-up” sparked put-backs on the next two Cav possessions and a quick 12 – 3 run, cutting a 17-point bulge to eight. But Celtic defense induced a “one-and-done” on eight of Q2’s final 16 Cleveland possessions.
After four games of parrying, both coaches (uncharacteristically perhaps in the case of Brad Stevens, as I noted in parting yesterday) seem to have tightened their playing rotations. Coach Lue’s sole Q1 move was inserting Larry Nance, Jr. for Tristan Thompson
A LeBron James three-point-play with a bit over four minutes left drew Cleveland within a point, but over the final 10 possessions, a trey-fueled 16 – 4 run put a confident spring into the young Celtics’ step.
Lost in all the attention drawn by the game’s little temper tantrum was quite a defensive effort by Mr. Morris to break up the play in the first place … and did anyone else notice Marcus give Jaylen Brown a little wink as the teams were being herded back to their benches for the (yuck!) video review?
Terry Rozier may have been off-target with his shot – though I noticed he did flip in a long bank shot after Coach requested his Q3 TO – and a bit loose at times with his handle despite his eye-popping turnover numbers … but he was accurate with that shoulder-block on Nance.
This is only the tenth time this has happened in a playoff game, all since 2014. Mr. James and his Jordanaires … er, I mean Cavaliers have participated in exactly half those contests (including their lone loss to Boston in the 2017 ECF).
Marcus Smart has just connected on a long but in-rhythm three-pointer to stretch his squad’s advantage to 19 points – with just about that many possessions remaining to be played. A deflected pass on the Cavs’ subsequent offensive foray resulted in a tie-up and jump-ball between Nance and Smart.
While aligning for the tip, Cavs Jeff Green and J.R. Smith formed their “cup” at the top of the key. Aron Baynes and Jaylen Brown were positioned in the paint defending Kyle Korver and Jordan Clarkson, respectively. Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier were matched up with Green and Smith outside.
Predictably, Nance back-tapped to Green near the three-point stripe, who handed off to a curling Smith – who just as predictably launched and missed a quick trey.
The Holy Trinity of Predictability was completed when Smart boxed out Nance and secured the D-board. Marcus kicked it to Brown at about midcourt, who simply pushed the ball to the paint and drew a shooting foul from a guarding-no-one J.R.
From that point, not even a 9 – 0 Cleveland run during a nine-possession Boston Q4 drought could manufacture any suspense.