2018 East Finals: Cavaliers grind down the Celtics to tie the series

4. Cleveland Cavaliers 111 – 2. Boston Celtics 102 (Series tied 2-2)

If there was one play that epitomized the Boston Celtics in Game 4 it was this “play” by Aron Baynes.

The Celtics were in the middle of a run against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They could have cut the lead down immediately if only Baynes remembered where the basket was. Instead he took a second to think of what to do with the ball as his teammates pointed to him the direction of where the basket was. Baynes was fouled, missed on of two free throws, and the Cavaliers scored three straight baskets to rebuild a double-digit lead.

In today’s game, it seemed as if the Celtics lost all the basketball IQ that’s propelled them to get to this point in the Playoffs. They were forcing jump shots early in the shot clock, fouling Cavaliers jump shooter and turning the ball over to the Cavs for easy baskets. Boston shot themselves in the foot every time they tried to make a run and get back in the game.

It also didn’t help that the Celtics were facing LeBron James at his predatory best. James was like a lion on a hunt in Game 4. He sniffed out the weakest link in the Celtics pack and forced the switch to put himself and that defender in an island. Then he went to work.

That weak link this series has been Terry Rozier. Rozier is an active defender that can be a terror for opposing guards. But against James’ size, strength and skill, he was no match. Like clockwork, James repeatedly forced a switch that got Rozier on him. He then grinded down the smaller player in the post and scored bucket after bucket after bucket on him. That was how the Cavaliers built a 19-point first half lead. Behind the utter dominance of James.

James finished with 44 points, his sixth 40+ point game of the post season. He didn’t have much in his statline with only five rebounds and three assists. This wasn’t one of the most fluid games of the King. But it didn’t matter. He was a battering ram, intent on breaking down the Celtics defense one post-up at a time.

James also made history tonight. He passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the player with the most field goals made in the Playoffs. Just another night for an all-time great.

As impressive as the Celtics were in the first two games, they only really did their job, which was to protect home court. The Cavaliers did the same.

But the Celtics only showed the weakness many knew the Cavaliers had. They exploited the poor Cleveland defense in Games 1 and 2. The Cavaliers on the other hand, made a Celtics team that looked like veterans early in the Playoffs look like kids once again. The onus is now on the Celtics to not only protect home court once again in Game 5, but show that they are the same team that won the first two games of the series.

Photo from Getty Images

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