Celtics

Must-read recap: Jayson Tatum is heroic, LeBron James is tired and the Celtics are a win away

Must-read recap: Jayson Tatum is heroic, LeBron James is tired and the Celtics are a win away

WHAT HAPPENED? 

Jayson Tatum happened and I shouldn't have to write another word, but I will. 

Behind a monster performance from Tatum, the Celtics beat the Cavs, 96-83, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals to take a 3-2 series lead. They led for essentially the whole game and held as large as a 17-point lead in the first half, and though the Cavs mounted runs here and there (two separate streaks of nine straight), the C's pulled away in the fourth.

The Celtics are now 10-0 at home, though they'll look to close out the series in Cleveland on Friday. 

JAYSON TATUM CONN SMYTHE/ LEBRON ENERGY WATCH

Tatum was downright heroic. It wasn't just the 24 points, seven rebounds or four assists. He was also very aggressive defensively, coming up with four steals and two blocks. Tatum was the best player on the floor. 

LeBron James, meanwhile, was tired. This despite scoring 26.

You knew that LeBron was tired because the ESPN broadcast devoted seemingly every spare second to saying LeBron looked tired. So did every reporter at the game. And everyone not at the game. Over and over and over. Doris Burke, who's great, even gave a report on how a Cavs reporter told her that James makes a point to never show that he's tired. That alone was kind of hilarious. It just never ended. 

WHAT'D MARCUS MORRIS DO TO GET EVERYONE ALL HOT? 

He made a great play to swat away an alley-oop to Larry Nance Jr., knocked the ball out, then stood over Nance's somehow still-alive body and said something. Nance got up and shoved Morris, leading to the two to exchange shoves, with Terry Rozier also jumping in. All three were given technical fouls, with Cleveland ending up at the line. 

SO IT WAS HILARIOUS? 

In the moment, yes. Then it was the worst. At the time of the altercation, the Celtics were smoking the Cavs, 36-19. Kyle Korver's free throw began a 9-0 run for the Cavs, who cut the lead from 17 to eight with 9:11 still to play in the half. 

BEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE OF THE GAME 

Right after Nance got called for a charge on a hilarious missed dunk on Aron Baynes early in the fourth, Jaylen Brown missed a layup and buried the rebound to give the Celtics their largest lead of the game at 18. The Cavs answered with a Jordan Clarkson jumper, then Marcus Smart buried a three. 

WORST MOMENT OF MY LIFE OF THE GAME

On the possession after the technical free throw from the second-quarter fracas, Korver missed a three. It was this massive sigh of relief that maybe Korver wouldn't have it this game and that the dustup wasn't going to wake up the Cavs. Then Nance got the rebound, dished it to Korver and that old son of a gun hit a three. 

HOW MUCH DID THE CAVALIERS MISS KYRIE? 

The teams probably missed Kyrie evenly in this one. LeBron and Kevin Love (14 points) were the only players in double digits for the Cavs. 

HOW MUCH DID THE CELTICS MISS KYRIE?

It was another so-so night for Terry Rozier, who had eight points, six assists, six rebounds and three steals.

DID KYLE KORVER GO AWAY? 

Yeah, he didn't do much damage. Only seven points. 

BEST OCCURRENCE OF DANNY AINGE YELLING AT A REF

When Ainge wanted a foul called on the Cavs in the third quarter. He was yelling "wake up!" 

MOST BEAUTIFUL THING IN THE WORLD

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

2020 NBA Restart: How would Celtics fare in playoff series vs. Heat?

2020 NBA Restart: How would Celtics fare in playoff series vs. Heat?

Miami is always a tough opponent come playoff time, but the Boston Celtics have every reason to feel confident they would prevail if the two were to meet in the playoffs in Orlando. 

In their two regular season matchups, the Celtics won both by an average of 13.5 points. 

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Making the victories even more impressive was Boston playing without some top players, as Marcus Smart (illness) missed the Celtics’ 112-93 win at the TD Garden on Dec. 4 while Jayson Tatum (groin) and Enes Kanter (hip) were both sidelined for the rematch, a 109-101 Celtics win, in Miami on Jan. 28. 

In both wins, Jaylen Brown was the one player the Heat had no answer for containing. After dropping a season-high 31 points on Miami in the first matchup, Brown was just as dominant in the second meeting when he scored 25 points, only to be outshined by Gordon Hayward’s 29. 

For the Celtics, both wins came down to their ability to force Miami into the Jimmy Butler show while limiting the overall impact of those around him.

But the Heat team Boston could see in the playoffs will be better than the squad that the C's faced earlier in the season. Miami has been a notoriously bad three-point shooting team for years. But after the All-Star break, the Heat averaged 15.5 made threes per game, which was fifth-best in the league. And their 40.8 percent shooting on threes after the break was tops in the league. 

The Celtics' starting five has been strong all season, and will look to continue along that path if the two meet up in the playoffs.

For Miami to pull off the upset, look for the Heat’s bench to play a major role. Miami’s second unit averages 41.3 points per game which ranks seventh in the NBA. They would face a Boston squad that’s allowing a league-low 33.6 bench points per game. Part of that strong defense after the break has been Boston’s board work. After the break, they have a rebounding percentage of .510 which ranks ninth in the league, while the Heat’s .496 rebounding percentage ranks 20th. 

PREDICTIONS FOR CELTICS-HEAT PLAYOFF SERIES

A. Sherrod Blakely: Miami is a better team now than it was during either of Boston’s two regular season wins. But Jayson Tatum’s meteoric rise combined with a healthy Kemba Walker will be too much for the Jimmy Butler-led Heat.

Prediction: Celtics in 5 games

Chris Forsberg: The Heat look a little different than the team Boston toppled twice in the regular season and added veteran, playoff-tested experience in Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder. While Jimmy Butler has a penchant for the big stage, he wasn’t able to get a loaded Philly roster out of the second round a year ago.

The task will be even more difficult here and Miami’s younger players will be challenged to maintain their regular-season production. If healthy, the Celtics have more pure talent overall and match up well against Miami’s small-ball ways.

Prediction: Celtics in 5 games

DJ Bean: We've seen Jimmy Butler's numbers drop in the postseason before, and while Bam Adebayo's a stud, they'd have the same problem virtually every team in the East will have: they just don't have the sheer number of stars Boston does. 

Prediction: Celtics in 5 or 6 games

Kara Lawson writes heartfelt tribute to Celtics after landing Duke job

Kara Lawson writes heartfelt tribute to Celtics after landing Duke job

Kara Lawson was only on the Celtics' coaching staff for one season, but it was clearly a special experience both for her and the team.

On Sunday, C's head coach Brad Stevens and some of the Celtics players both congratulated Lawson on her new job as head coach of the women's basketball team at Duke and described how much of an impact she made in her limited time in Boston.

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Marcus Smart was effusive in his praise for the former Olympic gold medalist, saying, "she became more than just my shooting coach, she became a longtime friend and somebody I know I can talk to if I ever need advice.”

On Wednesday morning, it was Lawson's turn to express her appreciation for the Celtics in an emotional social media post, writing, "These men have changed my life. I have loved my time with the Boston Celtics. Our players are authentic, intelligent, creative and passionate men. They motivated me every day to be my best for them."

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It’s been an emotional few days for me. And, while I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity in front of me at Duke University, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the team I’m leaving behind. These men have changed my life. I have loved my time with the Boston Celtics. Our players are authentic, intelligent, creative and passionate men. They motivated me every day to be my best for them. They surprised me last night by all wearing @DukeWBB T-shirts for an incredible show of support before I head to Durham. I cried. They would probably laugh and tell you I’ve cried a lot these last few days but I will tell you having relationships with players that move you to those kinds of emotions is the most meaningful pursuit one can have as a coach. I love them and I will miss them.

A post shared by Kara Lawson (@20karalawson) on

Seeing the entire C's contingent decked out in Duke women's basketball shirts makes you realize the genuine affection and appreciation the players built for Lawson in such a short time — and it's no surprise that Jayson Tatum is front and center in the picture as Lawson heads to Durham.

Enes Kanter, always a consistent presence on social media, summed up the photo with a perfect one-word caption: FAMILY.

With Lawson leaving the Orlando bubble, the Celtics are replacing her on the traveling coaching staff with Brandon Bailey, who is also in his first season as a Celtics assistant.