LeBron James looked exhausted. Jordan Clarkson was tasked with running the offense on far too many possessions. The Celtics’ rotation of hyped-up young dudes absolutely hounded the Cavs to death on defense. Watching the best player in the world trying to keep his team from going down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals definitely sounds fun to watch, but if you watched Game 5 on Wednesday night you know it wasn’t. The Celtics brushed off the Cavs, 96-83, in a game that was most conspicuously marked by how absent, checked-out, and sleepy basically every non-LeBron member the Cavs looked. What even is this shit?
The Celtics are still undefeated at home in these playoffs despite having shot even worse from the field than Cleveland tonight—36.5 percent to the Cavs’ 41.9. But they made more threes, and a 21-for-23 night from the free throw line helped make difference. The Cavs’ 15 turnovers on the night didn’t do them any favors on the comeback either.
You are perhaps beginning to pick up on the fact that this was a strained, inelegant basketball game. There, too, the Cavs were significantly worse than their hosts—they both looked worse and played worse. Boston scored 18 fast break points, but only allowed Cleveland two. Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier had off nights from the field, but rookie wunderkind Jayson Tatum swished enough pretty jumpers to at least give the game a hint of grace.
The bad news is everything else: Jordan Clarkson delivered an almost inspiring number of bricks, players on both sides muffed passes out of bounds like they were wearing oven mitts, and everyone honestly just looked pretty tired. Even LeBron’s 26 points on 11-of-22 shooting felt labored, and not so much in a dignified or heroic way as a Gamely Chugging Along way. This was a truly horrendous off night for the Cavs, and not the first they’ve experienced this postseason. One more game like this and they’ll have the rest of the offseason to rest up.