Once again in the post-season LeBron James put the Cleveland Cavaliers on his back to bring them back into contention to reach their fourth-straight NBA Finals.
LeBron operated at the peak of his powers in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals, scoring 46 points to defeat the Boston Celtics. Along with his 46 points, he collected 11 rebounds and nine assists on the night as the Cavaliers’ proved their quality under pressure after making a slow start to the game.
The Celtics came out firing with Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier putting the home side on the back foot at Quicken Loans Arena. Brad Stevens’ men lead at the end of the first quarter before LeBron aided by George Hill and Jeff Green off the bench fought back with a dominant spell of basketball.
Boston attempted to push back into the game in the second half, but every time they came within striking distance, LeBron produced a moment of magic to keep his side on top. The supporting players were outstanding for Cleveland as they have been for the matches on soil.
However, they cannot afford to go into their shells for the fourth match in a row on the road. Hill, Green and Tristan Thompson all rose to the occasion, but have been anonymous at the TD Garden. With Kevin Love sidelined in game seven, the trio will need to be at their best once again.
On the others side, Boston were let down by their experienced players. Al Horford had his worst game of the series, while Marcus Morris was also well below-par. Brown and Rozier almost dragged their side over the line, but it will take a complete effort to down LeBron.
The Celtics resolved their issues in the first quarter on the road, producing a fine effort to put the Cavaliers on the back foot. However, it was the second quarter that was their downfall on this occasion, conceding 34 points as LeBron and company dominated. That was the difference between the two sides as the rest of the game was fairly even before two three-pointers at the end of the fourth from LeBron secured the win for the Cavs. Boston would have expected the level of brilliance from the 33-year-old, but will have been surprised by the performances of Hill and Green. Both players have been inconsistent, but combined between 34 points between them on the night. If the Celtics continue to struggle against the support players then their chances of advancing to the Finals will be very slim.
Rozier and Brown were on form, both breaking the 25-point mark. The two young players have been the stars of the post-season for Stevens’ men alongside Jayson Tatum. Rozier had his best game of the series and nailed three-pointers with deadly accuracy. He was six from 10 from the perimeter, while his jump shot from in and around the paint was effective as well. Rozier has improved greatly over the course of the season, filling the void left by Kyrie Irving’s injury.
Brown continued his rise with enough fine outing. It could have been better if not for a couple of misses from the free-throw line. In the clutch he had an opportunity to cut the Cavs’ lead to four, only to miss a three-pointer when given a good look. However, his performance had kept the Celtics in the game. Horford and Morris will carry the majority of the blame for Stevens’ side. The Celtics don’t boast a great deal of experience, putting pressure on the duo to lead the way. They put forward putrid efforts at both ends of the court and will have to improve on Sunday night. They cannot be a burden and put more on the hands of Brown, Rozier and Tatum.
LeBron put in a performance for the ages in what may have been his last appearance as a Cavalier at Quicken Loans Arena. He has often come to the fore in elimination games and his display in game six was nothing short of outstanding. The 33-year-old took the game by the scruff of the neck and was able to dominate. He did have his share of drama when appearing to suffer a knee injury, which would have caused concern among Cleveland fans. However, he immediately found the net on a surge and lay-up that would not have endeared him to the rest of the NBA. Despite that LeBron’s brilliance continued into the fourth quarter, sinking two three-pointers from deep in the clutch to drive his side over the line.
The important aspect of the victory was that LeBron was not alone, although he accounted for almost half of the Cavs’ points. Hill was on point from the off and was a good foil, attacking the rim and displaying a level of accuracy with his jump shot inside the perimeter. He was seven out of 12 from the field, including three failed three-pointers. That level of production will be vital to ease the pressure off LeBron in game seven, especially with Love out of action. Green was equally impressive against his former club as he notched 14 points, nailing four out of his 10 shots from the field, although he did sink all of his free-throws.
Larry Nance also produced an unexpected display off the bench, bouncing back from his rough outing in game five. He was five for five in his attempts, while he was solid in his defensive duties. All of the support players have to maintain their form on the road otherwise LeBron could be overwhelmed in his attempt to guide his team to the Finals.
The Celtics were below par in game six as they have been throughout the playoffs on the road. They’ve missed the experience of Irving and Gordon Hayward to ease the burden on their fledgling starlets. Rozier, Tatum and Brown have risen to challenge at the TD Garden in the past to sink the Cavs, while Horford, Morris and Marcus Smart have been more comfortable in familiar surroundings.
Cleveland have been exactly the same and now could pay the price for their struggles during the regular season. The Celtics have the home game and will feel confident that they can see off LeBron and company, with the star man possibly feeling the effects of his 46 minutes on Friday. Back the Celtics to secure the win and advance to the Finals at odds of -138 with BetOnline, while take Stevens’ men on the -3.5 spread at odds of +108 with 888Sport.
Boston Celtics To Beat Cleveland Cavaliers Game Seven
Sunday 27th May 2018 20:30 ET (Monday 28th May 2018 01:30 BST)
Take -3.5 spread Boston Celtics
Sunday 27th May 2018 20:30 ET (Monday 28th May 2018 01:30 BST)