Al Horford and Tristan Thompson. Credit: David Richard -USA TODAY Sports
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Let’s explore key angles and action for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers (-7) and Boston Celtics.
WHERE THE ROAD MEETS THE FAILMENT: The Cavaliers are a -7.4 in Net Rating on the road in the playoffs, the Celtics -11.6. Boston is 2-5 ATS on the road in the playoffs and Cleveland 3-5, with two of those wins coming in what very much look like outlier performances against Toronto. These two teams just fall apart on the road.
These things are mystifying. Being worse on the road? OK, sure. But this bad? This consistently? It’s a little nuts until you start to consider the makeups of both teams.
The Cavaliers are an entirely offensive team. They held Boston to a 96.6 offensive rating in Cleveland, but it never really felt like spectacular defense from Cleveland as much as the Celtics just being unable to do anything right. Boston literally missed two dunks in Game 3, for crying out loud.
But Boston relies on role players right now because Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are out. Role players shoot better at home than they do on the road. So it would make sense that a team more heavily dependent on such players would struggle; there’s no star scorer in place to keep them grounded. (Al Horford is good enough to be considered a star, but he’s not a volume scorer. It’s just not in his DNA.)