The Cleveland Cavaliers' Worst Enemy Isn't The Boston Celtics
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The Cavaliers’ Worst Enemy Isn’t The Celtics

The Boston Celtics return to Cleveland with an opportunity to end LeBron James’ Eastern Conference reign, holding a 3-2 lead. Each time the series has shifted locations, however, we’ve practically seen two entirely different teams. Will Boston be able to break the series trends, or will the Cavs force Game 7?

Cleveland’s formula for success in its current iteration has been surrounding LeBron James with four shooters, forcing opponents into tough decisions every possession.

Away from the friendly confines of the Quicken Loans Arena, however, the Cavaliers have suffered all sorts of power outages. Their field goal percentage drops from 49.3 to 41.3 percent while their 3-point percentage is nearly cut in half, from 43.9 percent to 25.3 percent.

The biggest culprits are Kyle Korver, LeBron James, and J.R. Smith, whose three-point shooting shows the biggest differential in home and away splits. Smith, specifically, has yet to make a 3-pointer in Boston. And his increased usage of off-the-dribble shots shows signs of a player pressing too much and straying from his role on the road.

LeBron James’ 3-point attempts tick up, missing several catch-and-shoot opportunities, while primarily taking the off-the-dribble variety at home.

Perhaps the home and away splits are simply a matter of familiarity. Shooters are creatures of routine. Even in chaos, they must be able to reset their body on a dime to get into their natural shooting motion. Korver’s own splits might suggest more comfort with the rims in Cleveland—or his numbers might just be noise against a small sample size.

Regardless, the Cavaliers will have their work cut out for them against a rookie whose comfort is increasing in any environment.

From BBALLBREAKDOWN’s own Jackson Frank:

In three home playoff games this series, Tatum is averaging 17.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.3 steals on 60.1 percent true shooting. On the road against the Cavs, he’s provided a similar scoring pop with 17.5 points a night (58.3 percent TS), but the peripheral stats have been lagging, averaging just 1.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists and zero steals.

It’s been an odd trend as Tatum’s game hasn’t been hindered by crossing state lines during the postseason. On the whole, he’s actually been a more productive and efficient scorer away from TD Garden.

  • Home splits: 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals on 56.6 percent TS
  • Road splits: 19.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 0.7 steals on 58.4 percent TS
LeBron James, Jayson Tatum

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Two scripts are competing in Game 6. That of the series, which has the home team winning each game, which would give the Boston Celtics a Finals berth. And that of LeBron James’ conference dominance. Lose tonight in Cleveland, and it might be his last appearance as a member of the home team.