CLEVELAND – Sometimes less really is more.
It certainly was for the Celtics in their 96-83 Game 5 win over Cleveland, a game in which Boston only used seven players before having a couple end-of-the-bench guys in Abdel Nader and Guerschon Yabusele step on the floor for the final 2:36 of play when the game was all but secured.
“There’s a lot that goes into it and I’ll leave it at that,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens when asked about the seven-man rotation.
The most notable absence from the game was for Boston was Semi Ojeleye, who registered his first DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coaches Decision) of the playoffs. Ojeleye has been one of the team’s better defenders against LeBron James.
In the first four games, James shot 28.6 percent from the field when defended by Ojeleye, which was his lowest field-goal percentage against any Celtics player in this series. Only Marcus Morris (111 possessions through the first four games) and Jaylen Brown (62) defended James more than Ojeleye (47).
Ojeleye has learned in his time in Boston to be prepared for anything and everything.
“You never know when your numbers going to be called,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “That’s why you always have to stay ready, which is what I try to do.”
Boston shortening its rotation appeared to have caught the Cavs off-guard, which was in part why we did not see Kyle Korver enter the game in the first quarter.
“Well, initially he’s [Stevens] been putting Ojeleye in, so that’s been kind of [Kyle Korver’s] matchup when he comes into the game,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “He didn’t play him [Ojeleye], so it kind of threw us for a loop.”
By starting Aron Baynes instead of Morris, it allowed Morris to enter the game without being burdened by or having to worry about early foul trouble.
Just like he would not commit to a change to his starting lineup the last couple of games, there’s no guarantee or expectation that he will stick with a seven-man rotation in Game 6, either.
“It has nothing to do with the guys that didn’t play,” Stevens said of the shortened lineup. “All those guys are ready to help when called upon and have great attitudes and have been great teammates.”