Photo Courtesy of ABCNews7
BOSTON- There are some games that you just know it isn’t going to be your night. There is the famous, as I call them, “mountain games” because the whole game you are climbing the mountain to try and tie or take the lead, but you simply cannot pull it off because of either a turnover, and once you get within two possessions, the opponent goes on a 7-0 run to make it an 11 or 13 point game. That was Game Four and Game Six, but that certainly was not the problem last night.
Last night is what I call “can’t hit a damn shot” night, and those games are more frustrating to watch than mountain games, because when a team steals a mountain game, you KNOW they were outplayed and got lucky. Losing when you can’t shoot is maddening, especially when you play terrific defense and hold the other team to 87 points. Layups, and-ones that became two free throws because nobody could finish through contact, bad shots, badly TIMED shots (like Rozier chucking up a three with 21 seconds on the shot clock after Marcus Morris makes a HUGE offensive rebound), and hero shots ultimately ended the 2017-18 Boston Celtics season, and to be perfectly honest, it sucks.
Boston came out looking ready to play, which isn’t easy for a team this young facing a Game Seven situation. Boston jumped out to a 26-18 lead in the first quarter, and it appeared they were on their way to another home win. Yes, it was early, but all the ingredients were there. Boston was hitting shots, playing good defense, Cleveland was missing, and Lebron looked like he was ready to go into “tired-Lebron” mode.
That is when Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier forgot how to shoot. I would also mention Marcus Smart, but we all know he can’t shoot, so his 0-10 line last night was nothing new. He at least went to the basket, but couldn’t finish some of those aforementioned “and-ones”. Brown was good in the first, and then he fell apart. Rozier was awful from start to finish, and he saved his absolute worst for the worst possible time.
In the second and third quarter, the Celtics scored a COMBINED 30 points, which is simply disgusting. Boston only had FIVE turnovers overall last night. Let me repeat that- Boston had FIVE turnovers last night. Cleveland had 12 turnovers in the game last night, so there is seven more possessions Boston could have scored on, but they didn’t take advantage of Cleveland’s mistakes like they had earlier in the series. A perfect example is when Lebron got picked off by Tatum, who then fires a pass downcourt over the head of Jaylen Brown. You not only let the Cavs off the hook, you blew a chance for an easy two. These things can’t happen in playoff games, let alone Game Seven.
The fourth quarter was slightly better because Boston scored 23 points, but they allowed 28, and the way Cleveland was scoring was even more maddening. Lebron James simply took the ball and went to the basket at will. No help, no attempt to double, just one-on-one domination. Why not adjust? Why isn’t Marcus Smart getting help in the post on a guy that is five inches taller than him? Not only were the Celtics missing every three they shot, they were allowing Lebron to get rolling, and once that happens, it is over. Jeff Green was scoring points in the 4th quarter; that is all you hear if you are wondering who won this game.
Overall, the Celtics were 29-85 from the field (34%), 7-39 from three (17.9%), 14-19 from the FT line, with three of those misses coming at crucial moments in the fourth, 42 rebounds (one more than Cleveland, usually an indication of a Boston win), and Boston also won the turnover, assist, and steal battle. Boston won in every stat column except the two that matter the most- made shots and points.
Cleveland was 30-66 (46%) overall, and they struggled from three (9-35, 26%), but they took more high percentage shots when it mattered, and they hit those shots. Lebron James stat line was great, but he did turn the ball over eight times. Tristan Thompson was a huge presence for the Cavs, and George Hill, the veteran guard who has been in the Finals with San Antonio, was a +24 for the night. Like I mentioned earlier, Jeff Green also played well. When that happens, your team is in trouble.
Again, it is as simple as this- Boston shot themselves into the offseason. Shooting has always been an area where Boston needs help, and that will absolutely be one of the areas they look to upgrade this offseason. Yes, they were missing their two best players, and if they played, this series would have ended in four games, but they didn’t, and seeing the other holes when they’re out could end up being a Godsend for a roster that has the ability to win multiple championships.
They weren’t going to win the title this year, but it sure would have been fun to watch them put a scare into the Warriors or the Rockets. Unfortunately, that is not to be, yet, and we will have to settle for watching Lebron lose yet another championship.