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LeBron’s Quiet 44

The Celtics were very un-Celtic.

May 22, 2018 - 10:50 am

The hope going into last night’s Boston-Cleveland game was that it would be close. Or interesting. Or competitive. It was none of the above. The Cavs jumped out to a 34-18 lead, led by double digits for much of the night and won 111-102. 

And yet it was still the most competitive game of the conference finals so far. If you combine the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, we’re seven games in and none of the games have been that close.

Here’s how weird and boring a game it was – LeBron had 44 points and barely anyone noticed. That’s not to crack on LeBron, that’s to point out the fact that he’s doing this so often in the playoffs, that it’s not a thing anymore. Oh, a guy had a 44-point playoff game? That’s nice. Didn’t notice. 

It kind of says something about the game when the greatest highlight from it is an outlet pass. Roll it.

That said, that was an awesome pass. Seriously, one of the greatest outlet passes you’ll ever see. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers aren’t placing that pass any better than Kevin Love just did and they certainly aren’t doing it with a chest pass.

Just because Love made it look easy, doesn’t mean that it is. Because it’s not. When was the last time you threw a chest pass 80 feet on a dime? I’ll answer that for you: never.  

But what last night lacked in drama or interest, it made up for in novelty. Like Kyle Korver suddenly turning into Dikembe Mutombo and swatting Jaylen Brown not once, but twice, and then throwing in a third block. The guy with one on of the smoothest jumpers in the game suddenly turned into one of the fiercest shot-blockers in the league. 

And afterwards, Ty Lue had nothing but praise for his 36-year-old vet. Until Rachel Nichols told him he wasn’t 36.

But it wasn’t just that Kyle Korver was in Jaylen Brown’s head. The Celtics were in their own heads. That was a full-on implosion of the highest order. It had everything you look for in a meltdown. Missed dunks? Check. Bricked layups? Check. They missed a total of 15 shots right at the rim. You actually have to work pretty hard to do that. You need to kill yourself to finish that badly. All night long. 

But there was more. Chucking the ball out of bounds? Taking shots too early in the shot clock? Picking up dumb fouls. Check. Check. Check. In other words, the Celtics were very un-Celtic. 

And Scary Terry was very un-scary. Terry Rozier has been an absolute legend throughout the playoffs for his fearlessness at both ends, but ever since the series switched to Cleveland, that rep has taken a huge hit. Cleveland was going right at him on defense, hunting him whenever they could find him on a switch and making him pay. And then he was giving it right back to them on offense by going 6 of 15 from the field. Combine that with Marcus Smart’s 2 for 8 performance and you’ve got a Brad Stevens nightmare. 

Those two guys have been so clutch, so impressive throughout the playoffs, and then fell apart at the worst possible moment. Now Cleveland feels like a different team, Boston feels like a different team, and this feels like a really weird series. 

And if you think Boston-Cleveland is weird, just try imagining what Cleveland-Golden State part 4 would be like. Because that series which seemed nearly impossible on Friday is getting closer and closer.