Celtics

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.

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What International talent could the Celtics draft in 2019?

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NBC Sports Boston illustration

What International talent could the Celtics draft in 2019?

BOSTON -- When it comes to acquiring talent, the Boston Celtics won’t hesitate to go wherever they feel it can be acquired.

And with the possibility of having multiple first-round picks in next year’s NBA draft, Boston will certainly give thought to playing the “draft and stash” game in which they select a player with one or more of those first-round picks with the expectation that the player selected stay overseas for at least one season.

They did it two years ago when they selected Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic with the 16th and 23rd picks, respectively, in the 2016 NBA draft and did not bring either player over until the following season.

Yabusele is entering his second season with the Celtics while Zizic was sent to Cleveland as part of the blockbuster trade Boston had last year in acquiring Kyrie Irving from the Cavs.

Looking to go that route makes a lot of sense for this upcoming draft, particularly when most of the top international prospects are viewed by many as being a year or two away from being NBA-ready.

So, who are the top international prospects? 

Sekou Doumbouya, 6-9, 230, SF/PF, France

When it comes to the top of the International leaders board, Sekou Doumbouya is easily the top international prospect, a player likely to be among the top-5 players selected in 2019. The 18-year-old forward has shown the potential to be an impact player at both ends of the floor. As a 15-year-old, he was the leading scorer on the French national team which took home the gold during the 2016 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship. His emergence comes at a time when the NBA continues to become a “small-ball” league which allows players with Doumbouya’s skills to play both forward positions (although him at small forward should be something we see little of at the next level) as well as some center. He has shown growth in terms of shooting the ball more efficiently as well as solid mechanics on his shot, but his feel for the game is very much a work in progress. Defensively, there’s a lot to like about his game but his success at the next level defensively will depend heavily on where he’s placed on the floor. If he’s called upon to play more of a power forward/center role, he’ll be fine. His quickness will make him an asset at both ends of the floor. But if he’s being asked to defend small forwards on a consistent basis, that’s not playing to his strengths. When all is said and done, his upside will be too much for a team picking in the top-five to pass on.

Goga Bitadze, 6-11, 250, C, Republic of Georgia

Projected as a late-first, early-second round pick in 2019, Bitadze has a nice touch inside the paint. And while his level of athleticism leaves a lot to be desired, he has proven himself to be a productive player in a talented Adriatic Basketball league that has produced some of the bigger young bigs in the NBA , a group that includes Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic whose numbers in the Adriatic League are comparable to Bitadze who is younger than both Jokic and Nurkic when they were in the Adriatic League. His shooting mechanics are inconsistent, but he has a high release on his shots which makes it tough for defenders to block his shot or get a good contest on him. Lack of lateral quickness makes defending at this level a concern, for sure. But his ability to shoot mid-range shots (it’s his favorite) as well as provide rebounding at both ends of the floor, make Bitadze someone worth giving some thought to with one of their later picks.

Brian Bowen, 6-7, 200, USA (will play in Australia)

This may be one of the more intriguing prospects in next year’s NBA draft. Just to catch you up, Bowen was among those mentioned in the FBI’s investigation into rules violations at the University of Louisville. Bowen’s family was allegedly paid $100,000 for him to attend Louisville. He committed to the Cardinals, de-committed, then signed on to play for South Carolina before the NCAA ruled him ineligible for this upcoming season. Having entered and withdrew from the 2018 draft, he has since agreed to play for the Sydney Kings. A top-20 prospect in high school, Bowen excels in the catch-and-shoot game aided by an ultra-quick first step. He needs to improve his decision-making offensively, and consistency has to become a part of his overall play at the other end of the floor. A solid season with the Kings will do wonders for his stock which when all is said and done, will likely result in him being picked somewhere the middle to latter stages of the first round.

Luka Samanic, 6-10, PF, Croatia

Molded in the form of today’s big man, Samanic has skills that translate to him being able to be utilized in a multitude of ways. SI ranked Samanic as the 11th-best prospect heading into the 2019 NBA draft. That seems a bit high for the 6-foot-10 big man, especially when you consider the level of competition the 18-year-old has faced. Although to his credit, he has shown the ability to score, rebound and make his presence felt when facing off against his peers, which was indeed the case in January when he led the Under-18 FC Barcelona Lassa team to the championship game of the U18 Adidas Next Generation Tournament. Samanic, who turned 18 years old in January, didn’t get the win but he was still named Tournament MVP after averaging 23.3 points, 14.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots per game.

Adam Mokoka, 6-5, 210, SG, France

Mokoka looks the part of a combo guard in the NBA, but his game needs a good deal of refinement before what works overseas has a shot at translating to good play in the States. Considered by most at this point a second-round pick in the 2019 draft, one of Mokoka’s greatest strengths is his play defensively. The 20-year-old from France was named the LNB Pro A Best Young player award-winner last season, averaging just 3.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. He entered the 2018 NBA draft, only to wisely withdraw and set his sights on the 2019 draft. You love his 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame and that he’s locked into being an above-average defender. But he will have to show significant growth as a scorer and facilitator this upcoming season, in order to convince NBA folks there’s more to his game than what he does defensively.

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