Cleveland Cavaliers look depleted but hopeful in brutal Game 4 loss to Boston Celtics

Despite a heartbreak loss, the Cleveland Cavaliers' valiant fight in Game 4 signals hope and potential for the future.
Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four
Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four / Nick Cammett/GettyImages

102. 156. Final. 109. 18. Cavs - Celtics Game 4 2024 Final Score

The season is not over, but a season-long battle with injuries and rough stretches continue to brutalize the Cleveland Cavaliers in their Game 4 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

With a 1-3 series deficit, the Cavaliers return to Boston for Game 5 in a win-or-go-home scenario. Cleveland, notorious for a 3-1 comeback against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, will look to reignite that flame in the new era of Cavs basketball. While they lost at home for the second consecutive night, the Cavaliers battled every step of the way without Donovan Mitchell or Jarrett Allen present.

Less than an hour before tip off, Cavs superstar Mitchell was officially ruled out of the available lineup due to a concerning calf strain suffered in Game 3. Allen has not played in Cleveland's last six games with a rib contusion that is cause for greater concern after reports have suggested severe pain for the Cavaliers big man in recent weeks.

A Tale of two Halves in The Rock

In the first half, the Cavaliers were hot from deep with Max Strus nailing five of his six three-point attempts and Sam Merrill hitting two of his four. The Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse crowd erupted in elation, sensing the killer instinct the Cavaliers had. Evan Mobley also provided one three-pointer, jumpstarting his night after some missed easy looks at the rim. By halftime, the Cavs looked poised to shut down the Celtics and steal another game away from the East favorites.

Unfortunately, the halftime buzzer signaled the end of Cleveland's hot streak from deep. The Celtics went blow-for-blow with the Cavaliers all half. The winner would be the team able to maintain their energy and pace. The depleted Cavs lineup began faltering, looking tired by the end of the third quarter. Merrill went cold, missing his final three perimeter attempts while the Celtics caught fire behind Jrue Holiday's late heroics. Darius Garland attempted to will the Cavs to victory, but some confusing no-calls and missed open opportunities by the rest of Cleveland's club sealed their fate.

A fatal flaw in Cleveland's comeback attempt came on the rebounding battle again, as the Celtics forced Mobley away from the rim before a shot went up, giving Boston the advantage on the boards time and time again. Boston's 16-rebound win led to just a few too many extra chances.

Despite the loss, the Cavs were far from outclassed or underwhelming on the night. With 26 assists, Cleveland showcased the ball movement and selflessness that defined their mid-season run. Darius Garland and Max Strus led the team with seven assists each, followed by both Mobley and Caris LeVert dishing three.

Hopeful signs for the Cavaliers going forward

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff praised the team's resiliency and heart, saying they made the right plays and did the right things in the loss. "We got wide-open shots from guys that we trust to make those shots. We played the game selflessly and created for one another. We'll live with that."

After struggling with wildly unpredictable poor injury luck all year, Darius Garland reminded the home crowd of the talent and versatility that sparked the new era in Cavaliers basketball. DG the PG ended the night with a team-leading 30 points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals as he displayed offensive excellence and hustle on the defensive end.

Down the stretch, Garland's decisive shooting and silky touch around the rim nearly brought the Cavs back in front, but the Celtics were able to keep pace just enough to spoil the performance. Garland's leadership ignites hope for the return of a confident, masterful Darius Garland in the following games and seasons with Donovan Mitchell in Cleveland.

Bickerstaff called Garland's performance "phenomenal" for putting pressure on the Celtics all night, making the right reads and sparking the team with his spirit.

"He knows he's capable. We've seen Darius [Garland] carry this team before, so it's not a surprise. He just knew what he had to do to give us a chance tonight, and I thought he did it."

J.B. Bickerstaff

Bickerstaff's comments on the team and Garland encapsulate the mindset caused by the disappointing end. The Cavaliers left everything on the court, working as a unit to steal the night despite the odds and injuries against them.

Evan Mobley's game did not start in the fashion he hoped, but he discovered his rhythm, posting 19 points, nine rebounds and three assists. He went 8-of-13 from the field, adding to an efficient stretch in the postseason as the team's leading center over the half-dozen games without his running mate. While Mobley has shined at the five spot, Allen's presence has been severely missed on the boards and interior defense. Once the Celtics rotated their offense to keep Mobley hovering on the perimeter, Boston raced to the hoop to avoid the threat of a devastating classic Mobley rejection.

Through the postseason, Max Strus' efficiency and impact dipped, but the veteran wing returned to his Miami Heat form. His 15 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals kept the Celtics honest on both ends of the court. His nerves got the best of him at times, also adding a technical foul and six personal fouls to his resume for the game. Still, Strus' influence and desire to lead was palpable, adding to the hopeful future the Cavs have with a dynamic and trustworthy core.

With Donovan Mitchell's contract extension looming this summer, the Cleveland Cavaliers' Game 4 loss may be the most encouraging loss any team can face. The odds were disproportionately stacked against the Cavs, but they were never willing to fold. As Mitchell considers his future and aspirations toward the NBA Finals, Mobley's growth, Strus' clutch moments and Garland's dynamic performance should uplift Mitchell's belief in the team as a long-term home for his prime seasons in the Association.

The Boston Celtics will look to silence the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fourth and final time on Wednesday, May 15 in TD Garden at 7:00 pm Eastern Time. The Cavs are searching for an opportunity to extend their season and find a miracle run, hopefully with a healthy Mitchell and Allen on the hardwood. The game will be broadcast nationally on TNT.

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