BOSTON — After countless adjustments, numerous injuries and some incredible performances from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Big Three, the Celtics season exhaled its final breath.
Just like every game in Boston during the Eastern Conference Finals, Game 5 started with a bang and ended before the dust settled. The Cavs blitzed Boston early in transition as the Celtics spent most of the night begging and pleading with each other to take control. They never got close.
The Cleveland Cavaliers won Game 5 over the Boston Celtics 135-102 to head to the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
LeBron James and James “Champ” Jones made their seventh straight NBA Finals, the longest streak for any player not on the 1950s-60s Celtics in NBA history.
Even Champ got in on the action, with a putback dunk impressive for the league’s de facto geriatric.
Peep the Cavs' bench after this James Jones putback dunk pic.twitter.com/1tImCNvcZa— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) May 26, 2017
But this night belonged to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, who continued their hot streak from the second half of Game 4 in a manner that resembled a parody of the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals. They had an astonishing true shooting percentage of 70.6% and an off the charts 136.8 offensive rating even with the game being a blowout most of the night.
LeBron bulldozed his way through the Celtics without much resistance, leaving them in a state of despair early on. He finished with 35 points on 13-for-18 shooting, eight assists, eight rebounds, and three steals.
The deficit reached a peak of 37 points, the second worst under Brad Stevens to the 50-point lead the Cavs reached in Game 2. The Celtics never had a single lead in the three home games in this series, with their only play that even remotely resembled the team that won 53 games coming at the Q in Cleveland.
The barrage started early, with the Cavs building up a double-digit lead within the first 4:12 of play. Kevin Love opened the game with a three for the second straight game, then the Cavs got into a high tempo transition game, with Irving and LeBron taking turns flying through the Celtics defense.
“I think as a coach, you always believe you can win the next game because you believe you can win the next possession,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I thought we played a little too haphazard tonight. I didn't think it was a lack of effort at the beginning, but our offensive mistakes led to bad defense, and it just kind of snowballed on us.”
By the third quarter, the Cavs were just toying with Boston, pulling out their most absurd finishing moves.
It got so out of hand that JR Smith tried to start the party early.
He certainly was the life of the party after.
Breaking News: JR Smith is topless in the hallway. I repeat, JR Smith is topless in the hallway.— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) May 26, 2017
In the end, the Celtics season concluded with a roaring cheer from their fans as they spent the last five minutes of the game chanting “Let’s go Celtics!” They head into a vital offseason that can see them build a true title contender. Their coach earned the utmost respect league-wide and they proved their fight was undeniable.
“It's a good step forward as a season as a whole, but I leave with a little bit of a taste in your mouth -- like not playing as well here, and man, you want to play well here because there is really no place like TD Garden in Boston,” Stevens said. “When the fans at the end of the game were -- man, it's just amazing. And so, as I told our guys, we made a lot of great strides, but this pain is part of the path to what we ultimately want to be.”
CelticsBlog asked Stevens about how he felt achieving all they accomplished this season, despite falling short of the title.
“I don't have any objectives other than winning the whole thing. To me, that's the only goal you shoot for because then if you don't, if you put your goals lower, then you create a ceiling for your team, and I don't think that's fair to your team. And then the second part is that just allows you to focus on what's important, and that's the day-to-day work.”
His silver lining lies in the effort of his players, who built themselves up into stronger competitors over the course of the season and strengthened a culture that will look to breed even greater success next season.
“The other thing that I'd say about this team is they're fully committed to getting better every day, and that's a good thing. That's hard to do,” Stevens said to CelticsBlog. “So those character traits are going to be important moving forward, that they continue to be passed on from the guys that are in that locker room.”
Good job. Good Effort.