Boston, MA — Talk about home court advantage: the home team has won every game in the series between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This postseason alone the Celtics are 10-0 after the 96-83 Game 5 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night — the last time the C’s were 10-0 at home in the playoffs was back in 1986.
This year, there’s something about the Garden that fires the Celtics up — and whatever it is, Brad Stevens and the green gang better hope it lasts as they head back to the Quicken Loans Arena (where they dropped two consecutive games) with a 3-2 series lead and move one win away from their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2010.
“At home, one of the big things is, I truly believe it’s our fans,” said Al Horford. “I feel like our guys feed off of them and it really just drives us as a group. Sometimes on the road, it’s just different in the playoffs … here, I just think our guys feel comfortable and good. The atmosphere is just fun to play in right now.”
But the team is hoping they won’t play there again in this series and instead to steal a win in Game six in Cleveland. And statistically, it’s doable. In the past, NBA teams that win Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series win 83 per cent of the time.
Stats-wise, there wasn’t a huge difference on the offensive end for the Celtics. Five players reached double-digit scoring — Jayson Tatum ended Game 5 with 24, Jaylen Brown added 17, Horford chipped in 15 and Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart had 13 apiece — and nobody on the roster had an outstanding rebounding or dime-dropping night: Horford led the C’s with 12 rebounds and Rozier led once again in assists with seven.
But after the game, head coach Brad Stevens sang the praises of rookie Tatum: “I just thought he had a really good game,” he said. “… you knew he was going to be really good.”
In 41 minutes, the rookie shot 7 for 15 from the field, and recorded seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks; an almost more impressive stat line that arguably the best player in the world. Lebron finished Game five with 26 points, going 1 for 6 from beyond the arch, and finished with 10 rebounds, five assists, one steal and six turnovers.
Of course, the loss can’t be pinned to a single player on the Cavs but as they face elimination the game plan is going to have to change.
“Our focus, Lebron’s focus is to win, that’s all we’re focused on right now,” said Tyronn Lue, head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. “Anything else doesn’t matter right now, we got to be ready to play Game six, that’s all we’re worried about.”
And as the fans at TD Gardens chanted “Celtics in 6”, watching these two teams play tonight, it’s tough to disagree.
“We need to beat this team one more time,” said Stevens.
Game six will take place on Friday at 8:30 p.m. in Cleveland, Ohio.