Right now the Boston Celtics may not have any answers on the road, but hey, if they continue to take care of business at home, so what! Last night they demonstrated their home court dominance with their 96-89 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, taking a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Semi-Final playoff match up.
Kevin Garnett led the way with a clutch double-double performance scoring 26 points and owning 16 rebounds in one of his best playoff efforts to date. Paul Pierce also had a big offensive night netting 29 points on 8-19 shooting from the field. Rajon Rondo contributed in a big way dishing out 13 assists and scoring 20 points in 42 minutes of action.
Through 12 playoff games, the Celtics are now a perfect 7-0 at the TD Banknorth Garden. Their road record is a different story, a pathetic 0-5 and as the series now shifts to Cleveland for Game 6, questions will again arise about Boston’s inability to win on the road during the post-season and what adjustments need to be made. It really shouldn’t be rocket science to figure out because during the regular season, these same Celtics had the best road record in the NBA.
So, what happened to that team? Why are they only showing up to play at home? And who told Brian Scalabrine to wear those blue pants out in public last night?
All three are very legitimate questions that Celtics fans may be asking themselves today, but in reality not even the team has any of the answers. If they did they would have swept the Hawks in four games, would be holding opponents to under the 99.6 points on the road which they are currently allowing during the playoffs, and Scal would have been in a suit like every other bench player not dressing for the game.
Seriously though, the Celtics just look like a different team on the road during these playoffs then we saw all year. Coach Doc Rivers has somehow found a way to play every combination of players that during the regular season never stepped foot on the hardwood together. He’s abandoned assistant coach Tom Thibodeau’s philosophy of defense first, and not slowed his team down from the run and gun style they’ve been playing compared to their normal half court set offense that helped them win 66 games during the year.
In Games 1 and 2 of the series, the Celtics did a great job of containing Lebron James, forcing him to take bad shots and turn the ball over. When the King made his way home, that defensive minded mentality went out the window and James had his way offensively, getting to the basket with ease against whomever he wanted. This success continued last night when he scored 35 points in the loss, leading all scorers in the game.
Despite the Celtics recent struggles on the road, the Cavs now find themselves in a win-or-go-home situation tomorrow night,
“Whether we get 35 or 20 (from James), it doesn’t matter at this point,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “To lose the game … that’s what’s more disappointing than anything else. Whether he gets this or that, I’m not really concerned, because he’s going to contribute in other ways.”
The Cavs will look to Lebron for a big performance that would force a Game 7 in Boston on Sunday afternoon while the Celtics have other plans and intend to pick up their first playoff victory on the road to seal the deal.
Garnett put it well after the Game 5 win when he said, “This momentum, and what we did here tonight, we’ve got to figure a way to carry this on the road.”