Celtics earn Game 5 win over Cavaliers, 96-83

Celtics earn Game 5 win over Cavaliers, 96-83

BOSTON – Throughout the TD Garden, you could find seat after seat adorned with t-shirts that read, “Protect the Parquet.”

It has become more than just a catchy slogan to slap on a t-shirt. 

It is the mindset that these Boston Celtics bring to the floor for every home game – at least in the playoffs where they have won 10 in a row.

That postseason grit at home produced yet another gem of a performance as Boston defeated Cleveland 96-83 to take a 3-2 series lead in their best-of-seven series with Boston now one win away from a trip to the NBA Finals.

Jayson Tatum delivered a strong game for the Celtics, tallying a team-high 24 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists. Jaylen Brown (17 points) had a nice game, as did Al Horford who tallied a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds. 

For the Cavs, it was James once again leading the way with a double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds to go with five assists. The only other double-digit scorer for Cleveland was Kevin Love who had 14 points and seven rebounds. 

Boston would lead by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter, but Cleveland responded with a 9-0 run capped off by ex-Celtic Jeff Green draining a 3-pointer to make it an 83-71 game with 7:49 to play.

Brad Stevens, having seen enough, called a time-out. 

Both teams struggled to get shots to go down, but a 3-pointer by Al Horford gave Boston a 17-point lead that would prove to be the final straw. 

Boston opened the game with a 7-2 run, only for the Cavs to counter with a 10-2 run to lead 12-9 with 6:49to play in the first.

The Celtics soon regained the lead and continued to surge ahead, giving the usually raucous TD Garden plenty to cheer about as they led 32-19 after the first quarter which was their largest lead in the series after the first 12 minutes of play.

But the game took a dramatic turn early in the second quarter when Marcus Morris and Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. got into a brief pushing match. 

Officials reviewed the incident with 10:46 to play in the second quarter and wound up calling double technical fouls on Morris and Nance Jr., in addition to a third technical foul against Terry Rozier for his role in the incident. 

That seemed to be just what the Cavs needed to get going. 

Kyle Korver made the technical free throw, which began the jumping-off point for Cleveland’s 12-3 run which cut Boston’s lead back to single digits, 39-31. 

The two played to a virtual standstill the rest of the second quarter which ended with Boston ahead 53-42 at the half. 

Boston was indeed a better-playing team in just about every phase of the game, effectively making the Cavs a two-man scoring team –James and Love – for most of the half. 

The James-Love tandem had 26 of Cleveland’s 42 first-half points, connecting on 11-of-19 shots. 

Cleveland’s supporting cast was a combined 4-for-18 shooting with 16 points.

The third quarter was just another installment of the Jayson Tatum show, as the 20-year-old continued to dazzle with strong play at both ends of the floor whether it was forcing a Cavs missed shot and getting out in transition for a lay-up or pulling up for a shot-clock beating jumper. 

The youngest man on the floor was for long stretches, the best player while displaying a dominant end-to-end-game that had the Celtics ahead 76-60 going into the fourth quarter.


Daniel Theis making a strong case to be a starter for the Celtics

Daniel Theis making a strong case to be a starter for the Celtics

BOSTON -- Daniel Theis is on board with the across-the-board messaging coming out of Boston Celtics training camp this year, centered around building team chemistry and good habits. 

Lately, Theis has made it a habit of being in the right place at the right time for the Celtics since joining the starting lineup in the last two preseason games. 

And the way he has played, the 27-year-old Theis is positioning himself to be the team’s starting center. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has acknowledged that this season may be one in which the starting center position is rotated on a nightly basis depending upon matchups. 

But there’s no mistaking the play of Theis has, on many levels, elevated him to top-shelf status as far as the center position is concerned. 

He has been in the starting lineup each of the last two preseason games, both resulting in blowout wins for Boston (3-0).

Indeed, it has not gone unnoticed by Stevens how well Theis has fit in with the starting group that includes Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. 

It’s particularly noticeable on the defensive end of the floor.

“If you watch closely, that’s a tied-together group on that end of the court,” Stevens said. “And obviously, when you don’t start (Marcus) Smart you have your best defender coming off the bench. So, it’s really important that that group starts, able to understand when to kick guys out, when to be up, when to be back, when to react to a threat and they’re really good at it, together.”

And as far as Theis’ role, Stevens added, “Daniel’s gotten better at that over time. That’s largely the result of being here the longest. We’ve had really good defenders in (Aron) Baynes and (Al) Horford, that he’s played behind. But he’s working on all that stuff, too.”

Theis says the only thing he’s trying to accomplish when he’s on the floor, “is to be myself.”

He added, “Coaches want us to pressure, run the court; I think all of us bigs, we can run the court and pressure and play hard.”

While that’s true, one of the advantages Theis has is among the team’s big men, he is the most experienced with the Celtics system. 

And at 6-foot-8 with solid lateral quickness, Theis has shown himself to be effective when having to switch out on smaller players which is becoming a more common necessity in a league where big-man defenders are challenged to limit teams that often use more non-traditional, smaller lineups. 

In Boston’s blowout win at Orlando on Friday, Theis switching out defensively led to a pair of Magic turnovers in the first quarter that helped set the tone in the victory. 

His ability to contest shots at the rim has enabled Boston’s wings to swoop in for rebounds which has allowed the Celtics to get out in transition which they will have to do more of this season due to the team’s overall lack of size. 

The other four starters - Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum - will assume the lion’s share of the scoring load, but that’s fine with Theis. 

When it comes to scoring, he doesn’t need a bunch of touches to feel involved. 

But he does want to do his part to make sure he’s at least seen as a scoring threat when he’s on the floor, especially when it comes to long-range shooting. 

With Horford (Philadelphia) and Baynes (Phoenix) no longer on the roster, Boston doesn’t really have a 3-point threat from the center position. 

And then there’s Theis, who has shown the ability to make that shot but hasn’t taken it too often in the past. 

A career 35.2 percent 3-point shooter, Theis connected on 38.8 percent of his 3’s last season. 

But here’s the catch … he averaged just 1.0 attempt per game.

Knowing that he might be called upon to be more of a long-range shooter this season, Theis said improving his range was something he focused on during the offseason. 

But more than the shooting, Theis wanted to best ensure that he was in good health heading into this season. 

Theis was playing some of the best basketball of his NBA career when he suffered a torn meniscus injury in his left knee in March of 2018 - just weeks prior to the start of the playoffs. 

Since returning to the lineup, Theis has made strengthening that knee a priority. That involves additional stretching routines as part of his usual pre-game and pre-practice warm-up routine. 

But it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to play significant minutes this season.

“Like I said, when I get out there, I just want to be myself and just help us win,” Theis told NBC Sports Boston. “Rebound, defense, score, whatever they need me to do I’ll do.”

Celtics vets embracing TackoMania, good vibes from rookies>>>

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Enes Kanter can't get enough of Tacko Fall driving him around Boston area

Enes Kanter can't get enough of Tacko Fall driving him around Boston area

Boston Celtics fans love Tacko Fall. That much is abundantly clear.

But Fall's teammates -- especially Enes Kanter -- are equally as enamored with the Celtics' rookie sensation.

Want proof? Following the C's preseason win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden, Kanter posted a minute-long video on Twitter and TikTok of Fall chauffeuring him around the Boston area in the "TackoMobil" while he gleefully narrated.

Kanter seemed fascinated by Fall's ability to fold his 7-foot-6 frame into a car and got a kick out of the big man's size 22 (!!) shoe.

Fall is a responsible rookie, though, and told Kanter he had to keep his eyes on the road rather than give a shout-out to the camera.

It's a good thing Fall practices safe driving habits, because the "Tacko Mobile" apparently is a thing. Here's Celtics big man Vincent Poirier seeing Fall and Kanter off from TD Garden on Sunday:

Fall signed a two-way contract with the C's on Sunday, so he'll spend most of his rookie season with the Maine Red Claws. He'll likely make periodic trips to Boston, though, which means the "Tacko Mobile" could log some serious miles this season.

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