BOSTON — Same script, different home playoff game.
After losing Games 3 and 4 in Cleveland, the Boston Celtics returned home to TD Garden on Wednesday for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Cavaliers. And their postseason parquet-floor magic continued in front of a raucous home crowd, as the Celtics notched a 96-83 win to push the Cavs to the brink of elimination.
The Celtics led almost wire-to-wire, buoyed by a dominant performance from rookie Jayson Tatum, who was aggressive from the opening tip. The Duke product looked for his shot early and often en route to a 24-point performance.
Boston’s lead swelled to 19 early in the fourth, but the Cavs fought back to make the Garden crowd sweat. Eventually though, the lack of help for LeBron James (26 points) and Kevin Love (14 points) was too much for Cleveland to overcome, as they will head back home needing a win to keep their season alive.
Tatum had help carrying the offensive load, with Jaylen Brown (17 points), Al Horford (15 points), Marcus Smart (13 points) and Marcus Morris (13 points) also scoring in double figures.
The Celtics now lead the series 3-2.
Here’s how Game 5 unfolded:
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
LET US BEGIN
The Celtics opened the game on a 7-2 run, but Love got going early for the Cavs, pouring in eight points in the first four minutes to help Cleveland take a 12-9 lead halfway through the first quarter. Boston responded with a 10-3 run, capped by a Smart 3-pointer, to claim a 19-15 edge and force Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue to take a timeout with 3:38 remaining in the first.
Boston finished the stanza strong, going on a 13-4 run thanks to strong shooting from beyond the arc (6-for-13) and sloppy offense from Cleveland (five turnovers).
The C’s led 32-19 after one. Love led all scorers with 10 points, while Tatum paced the Celtics with nine points.
The C’s continued their hot shooting to start the second, extending their lead to 17.
A scuffle then broke out at the 10:47 mark as Larry Nance Jr. shoved Morris after the C’s forward jawed at him during a dead ball. Rozier shoved Nance toward the end of the fracas and all three players were given technicals.
The Cavs answered the minor fisticuffs with a 12-3 run over the next 3:53 to cut the lead to 39-31 with 6:54 to play.
Both teams traded blows for the remainder of the quarter, with Boston taking a 53-42 lead into halftime. James led all players with 16 points and Love added 10 for Cleveland. Tatum led the way for Boston with 12 with Horford and Brown each chipping in eight.
MUCH OF THE SAME
The Celtics were able to keep the Cavs at arm’s length for the first half of the third quarter, as Boston’s lead oscillated between nine and 15. Every time James and Love tried to propel the Cavs back into the game, the C’s pushed right back to keep the lead at a healthy margin.
Boston led 76-60 at the end of the third, led by Tatum’s 21 points (nine in the third quarter). James led all scorers with 24.
Despite the C’s large lead entering the fourth quarter, the final stanza was not without intrigue. Cleveland went on a 9-0 run to trim a 19-point lead to 12 with six minutes to play, but the Cavs’ disjointed offense was unable to sustain its push to get the lead under 10.
The Cavs missed four straight chances to cut further into the lead, and the C’s slammed the door on them. Boston went on a 7-2 run over the next 2:25 to push the lead to 17 and secure a crucial Game 5 win.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Let Tatum cook.
The Celtics and Cavs will resume their ECF series Friday at Quicken Loans Arena. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m ET.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images