BOSTON — It was a thrilling season for the Boston Celtics, but as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
The C’s were handed a season-ending loss Thursday night at TD Garden, as the Cleveland Cavaliers cruised to a 135-102 series-clinching victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.
LeBron James was a man on a mission. The three-time NBA champion paced Cleveland with 35 points to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving (24 points, seven assists) and Kevin Love (15 points, 11 rebounds) also had big nights for the Cavs.
There wasn’t much to get excited about on the Celtics’ end. Avery Bradley led the team with 23 points, but the guard’s strong night was nowhere near enough to keep Boston in the game.
With the loss, the Celtics are eliminated from the postseason, while the Cavaliers advance to take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals for a third consecutive campaign.
Here’s how it all went down.
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Kelly Olynyk
C: Al Horford
The Cavaliers posted an offensive explosion in the opening 12 minutes of the game and held a 43-27 lead. Cleveland was stellar from the field early on, converting on 64 percent of its shots, including a 6-for-11 mark from beyond the arc.
James got on a roll in a hurry. The Cavs star was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and paced his club with 11 first-quarter points to go along with six assists and four rebounds. Love (10 points, five rebounds) and Irving (nine points) also were strong for Cleveland in the opening frame.
The Celtics were lazy with the basketball in the first quarter, and allowed the Cavs to run in transition. The C’s only shot 38 percent in the opening 12 minutes and committed three turnovers. Smart led Boston with six first-quarter points, while Bradley and Terry Rozier both added five.
The Cavaliers didn’t get complacent after a dominant first quarter and muscled the Celtics en route to a 75-57 lead at the break. The Cavs got a surprising lift off the bench from Deron Williams in the second frame. After going scoreless in the first, the veteran point guard exploded for 14 second-quarter points on 5-of-6 shooting.
Bradley was the lone bright spot for Boston in the second quarter, as the guard matched Williams with 14 points of his own. The Celtics actually out-rebounded the Cavs 12-8 in the frame, but even a strong performance on the glass couldn’t slow down Cleveland’s highly efficient offense.
James continued to be the Cavaliers’ floor general, adding nine points in the second quarter to go along with three rebounds and an assist. Cleveland’s offensive prowess was too much for the Celtics to handle, as the C’s committed 10 fouls in the second.
The Cavaliers evidently weren’t satisfied with their first-half performance, as they piled on and pummeled the Celtics in the third frame to take a 109-74 lead into the fourth quarter.
James took it upon himself to ensure Boston had no chance of making a comeback. The forward erupted for 15 third-quarter points, nine of which from beyond the arc. Irving also had a monster third quarter with 13 points and three 3-point field goals.
TOO MUCH TO HANDLE
After Cleveland built up a considerable advantage, both sides opted to dive deep into their bench for a bulk of the fourth quarter. The Cavs’ reserves had no problem preserving the sizable lead, as the defending champions cruised to a clinching Game 5 victory.
The Celtics simply were outmatched by the Cavaliers, not just in this game, but in the majority of the series. Boston had no answer for James, and Cleveland’s bevy of skilled players proved why its without question the best team in the Eastern Conference. The C’s hung tough in spurts of the series, including an impressive comeback win in Game 3, but Cleveland never had too much trouble with Boston en route to its third straight NBA Finals appearance.
PLAY OF THE GAME
There aren’t many in the game with better handles than Irving.
The Celtics’ 2016-17 season has come to a close, but an exciting offseason awaits. Boston owns the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and could make some noise in free agency as well.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images