Radio You Need To Know
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Looking at the playoffs through 'hopeful lenses' as the Cavs face elimination in Boston

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (10) looks down as he walks off the court. Two Celtics players celebrate in the background.
David Dermer
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (10) walks off the court after his team was defeated by the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Monday, May 13, 2024, in Cleveland.

The Cavs are on the brink of elimination in the NBA playoffs, down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series with the Celtics. Game 5 is Wednesday night in Boston.

Ideastream Public Media’s sports commentator Terry Pluto said there’s reason for optimism that the Cavs could win Game 5 and extend the series. He points to Monday night's Game 4 loss in Cleveland, in which they kept it close despite being without two of their best players: Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen. Mitchell is dealing with a calf injury, and Allen has missed seven straight games with a rib injury.

“I'm just sitting there going, ‘If they’d just had either Mitchell or Allen, they would have knocked those guys off.’ I so wanted to write the story of, here they are, without Donovan Mitchell, and they upend the Celtics anyway. Because it's not just enjoying watching the Cavs, I love great stories and it would have been. But it was an almost great story,” Pluto said.

In the 109-102 loss in Game 4 in Cleveland, another one of their stars came alive.

“Darius Garland, who had struggled just through the playoffs and everything else. All of a sudden, the second half, (he) looked like the Darius Garland of a couple years ago, and he finished with 30 points,” Pluto said.

They’ll need more of that to win Game 5 in Boston, and they’ll also need the Celtics to have a bad night, Pluto said.

“Which once in a while, in fact they did it in Game 2 against the Cavs, they just walk out on the floor, they figure they're at home. And it's like, you know, ‘I'll have a lobster roll and, you know, a Diet Coke and just kind of walk away with the victory,’" Pluto said. "I mean, they have the best record in the NBA. But they were known for having these just strange games out of nowhere. So that's what it would take.”

Pluto expects the team will again be without Donovan Mitchell for Game 5.

“The hard thing is, I would love to see Donovan Mitchell playing these last two games because you could just see how he's grown as a leader of the team, you know, the fans embraced him, how he's carried his teammates along and encouraged them. I would have loved to have seen him in a big game in Boston like this. And we're probably going to be denied that” Pluto said.

Meanwhile, Pluto said it’s been exciting to watch Evan Mobley find his groove.

“We will see Evan Mobley, who is only 23-years-old (and) who should be a senior at USC. You see him now growing into the kind of player that the Cavs are hoping he'll become. I'm not talking about a superstar or whatever, but becoming a guy I would think next year has a chance to become an All-Star. So, you know, I look at this thing in through basically hopeful lenses,” Pluto said.

Pluto said he’s trying not to look too far past Wednesday night’s Game 5.

“A lot of things could happen in the offseason. This is the pro sports. You could always fire a coach. You never know, J.B. Bickerstaff could be fired. Who knows? Donovan Mitchell could be a free agent a year from now. He could force a trade, or he could stay. There’s all those other things."

For Game 5, Pluto is hoping for a really good game.

"I'd like to see them scare them in Boston. And I could tell just from the emails I've been getting from fans or whatever, I mean, they're riding the emotional tidal waves up and down, but they are engaged, and the crowds are loud. And it's been one of those things where, you know, you don't have to win a championship to have a really good time with a team and a season,” Pluto said.

Expertise: Audio storytelling, journalism and production