3 Cavaliers who need to step up for Cleveland in Game 5 against Boston Celtics

The time to make an impact is now as the Cleveland Cavaliers face elimination from the NBA Playoffs in Game 5 against the Boston Celtics.
Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four
Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four / Nick Cammett/GettyImages
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The Cleveland Cavaliers' bench production has been among the worst of any team in the NBA Playoffs this year.

As the Cavs enter Game 5 against the Boston Celtics with elimination overhead, time is running out for Cleveland to respond. In 11 postseason games this year, Cleveland's bench has only produced 19.4 points per game on 36.2 percent from the field. Throughout their seven-game series against the Orlando Magic, the Cavaliers could hardly find any help for Donovan Mitchell as the supporting cast always seemed one bad moment away from total collapse.

Against the Celtics, some Cavaliers have shown better signs of life. With Cavalier legend LeBron James courtside, the Cavs put up a fight in Game 4 without Donovan Mitchell or Jarrett Allen in the lineup.

While Evan Mobley's defense smothered the Magic's hopes multiple times, his offense lacked in the first round. Thankfully for Cleveland, his aggression and decision-making have improved steadily throughout the conference semifinals. He is still an imperfect prospect offensively, but his positive signs should provide the Cavs with hope. Cleveland's beloved point guard Darius Garland gave the home crowd a vintage performance in Game 4, scoring his first 30-point game of the playoffs.

Unfortunately, these two have been the only ones to improve steadily during the playoffs. Max Strus and Caris LeVert were impactful in Game 4 on offense, but their offensive presence has been inconsistent at best. Veteran forward Georges Niang was played out of the rotation by Orlando and has only seen reduced minutes against Boston.

After Game 4, Garland sounded off on the "ridiculous" free-throw disparity between Cleveland and Boston, with the Celtics attempting 17 more free throws than the Cavaliers. While trips to the charity stripe cannot decide a game too often, the Cavaliers have shot the fifth-least free throws of any team in the playoffs and the third-least of teams still in contention. The Cavs will need to push the issue in the paint in Game 5 to force the officials to blow their whistles, but they must enter the game with a killer mentality regardless of the calls.

If the Cleveland Cavaliers to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the postseason for the second time in the past 10 years, these three players must contribute and turn their year around before it's too late.

The Curious Case of Isaac Okoro

After making tremendous growth as a shooter in the regular season, Isaac Okoro has reverted to old habits in the playoffs; however, his defense is just as good as ever. The Cavaliers drafted Okoro in 2020 for his defensive ability, assuming his offense could come along in time. While the Auburn prospect reached a career-high 39.1 percent from deep this season, he has dropped down to 23.5 percent in the postseason - the worst of his career at any point of the year.

Three-point scoring is not everything for Okoro, though, as his athletic drive to the rim can humiliate taller defenders when the young wing absorbs contact and still finishes with ease. Unfortunately, Isaac's attempts within five feet of the basket have only converted half the time. Against the Celtics, Okoro has played as the Cavs' starting power forward amid a lingering injury for Jarrett Allen, but the improved role and usage have yet to yield better results as Okoro's confidence with the ball looks entirely dissipated.

With restricted free agency coming this summer, Okoro's stock has likely dropped severely after rising throughout the regular season. He was Cleveland's most dependable bench defender and one of the most positionally versatile players overall. His offense was coming along, too, which bodes well for his free-agency prospects. Now, the Cavaliers will have to decide whether they are willing to pay Okoro or explore the sign-and-trade market for a more proven and reliable wing option.

In Game 5, Okoro has the chance to turn the tides and silence the noise. The Cavaliers have every reason to invest in Okoro after his regular season, and one postseason game can solidify his value. His defense has not gone anywhere, and the Cavs need one more dependable presence on offense. If Isaac Okoro can provide that, he will enter this summer with plenty of positive signs surrounding his future.