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What went right for the Cleveland Cavaliers and what went wrong for the Boston Celtics in Game 7

Looking at the key factors that decided the Cleveland Cavaliers' Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Jay Asser 2018/05/28

Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals wasn’t the most aesthetically-pleasing battle, but the Cleveland Cavaliers did enough to edge the Boston Celtics 87-79 to secure their spot in the NBA Finals.

LeBron James unsurprisingly led the way with 35 points on 12-of-24 shooting, along with 15 rebounds, nine assists and two blocks. As great as he was, however, he also had eight turnovers and needed other things outside of his control to go his way.

Here’s a look at the factors that made the difference in Game 7.

What went right for the Cavaliers

Supporting cast

The non-LeBron Cavaliers weren’t great, but they provided James with just enough support to pull out the win.

It didn’t look like that would be the case early on though as James had 12 of the team’s 18 points in the first quarter, in which his team-mates shot just 2-of-9. But in the final three periods, the non-LeBrons had 46 of Cleveland’s 69 points and shot 16-of-33.

No one was better than Jeff Green, who started in place of Kevin Love and had 19 points, knocking down timely shots in the second half.

LeBron’s supporting cast get plenty of criticism and much of it is deserved, but they came through for their leader when he needed them most.

Attacking in transition

Cleveland’s 16 fast-break points for the game might not seem that notable, but considering they scored 87 in total, their aggression in transition was critical.

Boston’s defence showed up and performed as it had throughout the playoffs at home, which made everything hard for the Cavaliers’ offence in the half-court. So instead of always slowing the pace, James often attacked to catch the Celtics off-guard before they could set up their defence.

Key to that was Boston missing so many shots, which sprung the Cavaliers and gave James a head of steam.

What went wrong for the Celtics

Make or miss league

Plain and simple, Boston let a golden opportunity slip away by missing shots. You can’t hold a LeBron-led offence to 87 points in a Game 7 and then not score enough to win.

It was just one of those nights for the Celtics, who hit 34.1 per cent from the field and 7-of-39 from long range. A lot of them were quality looks too, but they made just 17-of-51 uncontested looks.

Boston’s backcourt was horrific as Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier shot 8-of-42, offering little help to Jayson Tatum and Al Horford who both had strong performances.

It was a bad time for the team to have one of their worst shooting games of the season.

Tatum and Horford not fed enough

It’s an unfortunate byproduct of the Celtics’ fluid offence that players who are going well aren’t always fed repeatedly. The equal opportunity approach is ideal when it’s working, but Game 7 was not one of those times.

With Rozier, Smart and Brown mightily struggling, Boston should have put the ball in Tatum and Horford’s hands much more. Cleveland didn’t have much of an answer for Tatum – outside LeBron – all series and especially not in Game 7 when he 24 points, while Horford was feasting on post touches.

Those two finished with only 29 field goal attempts, while the Celtics’ five other players to see time in the game combined to shoot 13-of-56.

It’s good to strive for balance, but it’s better to go with what’s working when your season is on the line.

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Al Horford Boston Celtics Jaylen Brown Jayson Tatum Jeff Green Kevin Love LeBron James Marcus Smart Terry Rozier