Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Celtics 109, Cavaliers 102: Jayson Tatum's 33 points held off Cleveland in Game 4 [BOS leads series, 3-1]

The Celtics secured their first victory under 10 points in the postseason Monday night at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 109-102 to take a commanding 3-1 best-of-7 series lead.

Despite Donovan Mitchell's absence with a calf injury, Cleveland kept it competitive to the very end, but Tatum's second-consecutive 30-point performance helped Boston overcome the late push from the Cavs.

Winning in convincing fashion during a majority of their victories in this playoff run so far. the Celtics found value in being tested against the Cavs -- an area they'll have to improve on if they hope to compete for a title this season.
"It's good to be in those situations. It takes what it takes. However we have to win games, we have to do it. It was good to get reps playing different ways," said head coach Joe Mazzulla.
Tatum led all scorers with 33 points to go along with 11 rebounds and five assists, with his co-star Jaylen Brown adding 27 points on an efficient 9-of-15 shooting and eight rebounds. Jrue Holiday continued to produce offensively, adding 16 points and five assists. 

Darius Garland stepped up with Mitchell out of the lineup with a 30 point, seven assist effort, while Evan Mobley added 19 points, nine boards and Caris LeVert also netted 19 points in a starting role for a shorthanded Cleveland roster -- as Jarrett Allen (ribs) missed his seventh consecutive game.

Without Mitchell, the Cavs knew they would need to get some production from their role players, and they answered the call early. Max Strus (15 points), who has struggled to find his footing offensively, got off to a hot start, knocking down his first two 3-point attempts, contributing to Cleveland's 8-2 start to the game. 

Held in check for a majority of the second, Holiday regained control late in the quarter, adding another seven points, including a big step back 3-pointer over LeVert. Holiday capped off his strong first half, blocking Garland's last second shot to send his team into the locker room with a five point advantage (62-57). 

Trying to pick up where they left off before the break, Boston got a rude awakening early in the third period, with the Cavaliers getting out to an 8-2 run and holding the Celtics to 1-of-7 shooting from the field. With the shots not falling, Boston was aggressive attacking the paint and drew some fouls. Brown, taking the initiative, spun off Strus, drove to the paint, and finished a tough left hand layup and converted an and-1, helping his team get out to a 7-0 spurt. 

Brown continued to lead the way offensively for the Celtics with nine third quarter points. Holding the Cavs' 3-point shooting in check, Boston was able to build their lead a little bit, but the lack of production from the rest of the team. Behind 10 points from Mobley, and six from Garland, the Cavs wouldn't go away easily. However, Payton Pritchard (11 points off the bench) closed off the third strong with an key pull up trey to put Boston ahead 88-78.

With a double digit advantage heading into the final frame, Boston hoped to extend their lead. Tatum hit back-to-back baskets to start, but the Celtics' defense helped set the tone. Being aggressive on the perimeter and fighting over screens, Holiday brought energy on both ends -- highlighted by his three steals in the game. 

That energy wouldn't translate to the offensive end, as the Celtics failed to score a point over a four minute stretch. The Cavs benefited, with a 12-2 run, which kept them neck and neck with Boston up to the very end. 

Despite the offense struggling, Boston came through late, behind their two stars as Tatum, attracting some attention dished it out to Brown on the right wing, where he knocked down a clutch 3-pointer to give the team an eight-point lead with 1:08 left.

The Celtics looked primed to hold off the Cavs, but they wouldn't go away easily. Garland, attacking the paint, drew a foul on Tatum, and converted an and-1 to cut the deficit to five with 31 seconds remaining. Boston wasn't fazed however, as they converted their free throws late to hold off Cleveland's one last rally.

Prior to the game, Boston expected the Cavs to come out fighting, but the team answered to take control of the series. Not underestimating their opponent, Boston doesn't expect things to get any easier in Game 5.
"I'm not surprised at all by how good they played, and I bet they play even better in the next game," said Mazzulla.
The Celtics, who have been without Kristaps Porzingis (calf injury) over the last five outings, look to handle business at home Wednesday night and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third straight year. Game 5 will tip-off at 7:00 pm and be available to watch on TNT.

Game Notes:

Boston hit 48.7% from the field and held the Cavs to 43.6% shooting. The Celtics dominated on the glass with a 48-32 advantage, but had 14 turnovers compared to the home team's seven. The C's made 12-of-32 (37.5%) from behind the arc, while Cleveland was 15-of-48 (31.3%) from long distance.

Ian Carrano

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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