Avery Bradley and the Celtics were overwhelmed by LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the Eastern finals Thursday at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Kyrie Irving, LeBron James lead rout in elimination of Celtics, set up Finals rematch with Warriors

Mike Petraglia
May 25, 2017 - 10:54 pm

There would be no magical comeback on this night. There would be no slow start from LeBron James or Kyrie Irving. There would be only complete domination from start to finish by the defending NBA champions and an end to the Celtics upstart playoff run. 

Kyrie Irving opened the third quarter with three bullseyes from beyond the arc as part of his 24-point performance while James added 35 points, eight rebounds and eight assists to lead the Cavaliers past the Celtics, 135-102, Thursday night at TD Garden in Game 5 of the Eastern finals. The Cavaliers win the series, 4-1, and advance to meet the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals starting June 1 in Oakland. It is the first time in NBA history that two teams will meet for three straight seasons. The two rivals have split the previous two encounters. 

The Celtics were outscored by 13, 44 and 33 points in the most lopsided series of home losses in the Celtics playoff history. 

The start of the game was a continuation of the 44-point destruction in the last game played in Boston. For the third time in five games, Kevin Love opened the contest with a three. Marcus Smart responded to tied the game at 3. It would be the only time Boston would be tied the rest of the night. Love’s turnaround hook shot with 93 seconds into the game gave Cleveland the lead for good, 5-3.  

The Celtics looked horrid while the Cavaliers looked like a team that wanted no part of a Game 6 back in Cleveland. 

Kelly Olynyk’s airball on a three led to a J.R. Smith leak out, dunk and timeout from Brad Stevens. Four minutes later, LeBron James put a move on Al Horford and drove to the basket for a dunk, triggering the second timeout of the quarter from Stevens. It was 28-12 and the rout was in full throttle. 

In between the Olynyk airball and the LeBron dunk, the Celtics had three turnovers, a missed Avery Bradley layup and blocks from James and Tristan Thompson.

Down 19-10 after two free throws from Thompson, the crowd that battled through horrific traffic outside began chanting “Let’s Go Celtics”. 

A three-point play from Kyrie Irving with 2:45 left, the Celtics trailed 37-16, bringing the score to 167-102 Cleveland in the last five quarters of basketball in Boston going back to the start of Game 2. 

The Celtics made a mini-run to cut the lead to 37-22. But James hit a 19-foot fallaway as the shot clock was expiring and Irving drained a three for a 43-23 Cleveland advantage. The Celtics closed it to 43-27 at the end of the first quarter. Cleveland’s 43 points fell just two shy of the all-time NBA playoff record for most points in an opening period, set in 1985 by the Lakers and matched by three others since.

(For a full box score, click here).

The second quarter started off on a promising note as the Celtics cut the lead to 13 on a Jae Crowder three-point play. But the Cavaliers responded with a 16-6 run to build a 23-point lead at 59-36. The half again appeared to end on a positive note for the Celtics as Avery Bradley scored six straight points to cut the lead to 73-57.

But the Cavaliers scored a basket on a goaltending call on Al Horford that caused Brad Stevens to flail angrily on the sidelines. The Cavs took a 75-57 lead to the locker room at the half. The 75 points marked a franchise playoff record for the Cavs while the 75 points were the most in a playoff game since May 9, 2003 when the Mavericks scored 83 against Sacramento in Game 2 of the Western semifinals.

Irving nailed a three in the face of Crowder to open the third quarter and another two minutes later to extend Cleveland’s lead to 83-61. Irving hit his third triple of the opening four minutes of the half to extend the Cavaliers to an 86-63 lead. James drove to the basket uncontested with 6:38 left in the third to put the Cavaliers up, 90-65, sending fans to the exits. 

One sequence said it all in the third quarter. Irving flew in for an offensive rebound, dished to LeBron for a one-handed slam. That was followed by a muscle flex to the VIPs under the Celtics basket. One possession later, J.R. Smith canned a three from the right wing and it was 95-65. The Cavaliers closed the third quarter ahead, 109-74 as fans began taking photos with Brian Scalabrine in the media section before heading for the exits. 

Most of the starters came out of the game with eight minutes left and the Cavaliers up 39 points, 115-76. 

As the game ended, the crowd gave the Celtics a standing ovation amidst “Let’s Go Celtics” chants. 

“Having No. 1 pick is pretty cool,” Stevens said after the final game of the season. “It means I’ve got to go straight to work (Friday). Looking forward to getting to know these prospects.”