The Cleveland Cavaliers season ends in Game 5 loss to Boston Celtics in NBA Playoffs

Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four
Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four / Nick Cammett/GettyImages

98. 156. Cavaliers Game 5 Loss 2024 to Celtics. 113. 18. Final

The infirmary-ridden Cleveland Cavaliers’ season was cut short in Game 5 by the Boston Celtics, but the squad didn’t go out quietly at TD Garden, losing control of the game in the last nine minutes.

Donovan Mitchell (calf), Jarrett Allen (rib) and Caris LeVert (knee) were absent.

Evan Mobley and Marcus Morris, Sr. produced 25-of-37 baskets, but the rest of the Wine and Gold converted 13 field goals in 42 attempts. Early, Mobley’s rim rolls and transition attacks generated paint pressure, but the primary strategy was to shoot a high clip from deep to make up for the lack of creation off the dribble.

Morris supplied 14 first-half points, shooting off screens and dribbling into the lane for a few buckets. Cleveland's buyout-market addition served Cleveland well in his 12th NBA season. The playoff-tested veteran tried to will the Cavaliers to the win, but the host team matched his output with their own barrage of three-pointers. Veteran wing Max Strus also connected on two three-pointers in the first half.

Yet the Cavaliers were behind on the scoreboard, 52-58, at halftime and down four on the glass.

On the other side, Jayson Tatum and Derrick White’s jump shots were on target, and a throwback Al Horford performance carried the Celtics to outpace the Cavaliers.

Starting the third quarter, the Celtics scored off back-to-back turnovers by Mobley and Dean Wade to burn the Cavaliers in the first few minutes after the guests’ decent start in the third quarter. But Mobley got it going on offense, scoring in transition, hitting hooks in the paint thrice, attacking Luke Kornet at close range and dunking off a rim roll. Morris had multiple triples, too.

An eight-point swing in the fourth quarter shifted momentum entirely to the hosts. The Cavaliers lost 98-113. Additionally, the squad had 42 paint points, none on the break, five via second chances, 21 off turnovers and 34 from the reserves.

At the postgame presser, Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff reflected on the year, saying he was proud of his group's effort. “They never found a time to fold on each other…”

Here’s how it transpired…

Cleveland's perimeter defense

The Cavaliers gave up 19-of-43 three-pointers. The crew sagged off the corner to clog the lane, getting burned in the process, and they were late closing out to the perimeter off the drive-and-kick and after trapping the ball. On top of that, the Celtics scored against drop coverage on multiple pick-and-pop sets.

As the lone big man, Mobley was forced to hover between Horford on the perimeter and the rim. The Celtics' dynamic offense never allowed Cleveland to cover the entire court. In total, the Celtics scored six more three-pointers than the Cavaliers on 12 more attempts.

Death by (not) rebounding

The Cavaliers were outrebounded by 33-51 and conceded 11 on offense, turning into 12 second-chance points for Boston. Without Jarrett Allen to help Cleveland's chances, Mobley was the sole major rebounding threat on the floor. Dean Wade's lingering knee injury kept him from producing at his best on the boards.

Mobley and Strus were the Cavaliers’ top rebounders, snatching seven apiece. No other teammate had more than three.

Jayson Tatum and Al Horford got hot when it mattered most

Tatum dribbled past Dean Wade from the corner to the cup for a dunk, scored on the break twice, logged a second chance layup, maneuvered by Mobley on the baseline for a bucket and canned three trays. Boston's leading star forward finished with 25 points on 56.3 percent shooting, with 10 rebounds, nine dimes, four steals and a turnover.

Horford made six of his 13 trifectas, dunked in transition and made a layup assisted by Jaylen Brown’s baseline drive. He totaled 22 marks on eight-of-15 tries and picked up three blocks, one steal and 15 rebounds, including seven on offense. His two-way presence gave the Celtics the extra boost they needed to overcome the Cavaliers' work to steal another road win.

Horford became the oldest player in NBA history to record a 20+ PT, 10+ REB, 5+ 3PT, 5+ AST Playoff game, passing LeBron James.

Not enough free throw attempts for the Cavaliers

The Celtics did a fine job of defending without fouling, limiting the visitors to seven-of-20 baskets (35 percent) in the paint non-restricted area, which is 9.1 points below the league average.

The Cavs made nine of their 12 freebies. Only Mobley, Strus, Garland and Morris got to the line.

Darius Garland was ineffective with the season on the line

Garland logged 11 points on four-of-17 baskets, with nine assists, two steals and two turnovers. His disappointing performance immediately followed his 30-point, seven-assist night in the Game 4 loss in Cleveland.

He scored twice against drop coverage in the first quarter but had trouble scoring when Horford switched onto him on the perimeter or when his dribble was tracked by Horford into the paint, getting blocked twice. In a win-or-go-home game, Garland's hesitant decision-making and inconsistent confidence killed Cleveland's chances.

Garland missed eight consecutive shots between the second and fourth quarter, defended by Horford and White.

Following the loss, the Cleveland Cavaliers enter the offseason with a mass of questions and concerns surrounding their roster construction and coaching staff. They ended the year with the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference, reaching the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

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