The Boston Celtics tried a new approach – physically rattling the Cleveland Cavaliers. It didn’t work. LeBron James had his best game of the series, and along with Kevin Love and J.R. Smith led his team to a 103-95 win, taking a 3-0 lead in the series.
While none of the games have been blow outs, home or away, the Cavaliers keep showing just how much better they are than their rivals when it comes to focusing, honing in on a certain minor goal and completing it, be it small runs or consecutive stops on defense, leaving the Celtics more and more frustrated as the time goes by, even though they’re not giving up.
So after Evan Turner and Jonas Jerebko failed in their wrestling tactics during the first half, it turned out basketball, simply playing and trying to score, wasn’t a bad idea. Turner hit a 3-pointer with 2:45 left in the game to cut the lead down to 3 points (95-92) but two consecutive 3-pointers from Kevin Love, who started strong (9 points in the first quarter) and finished even stronger, made sure the Cavaliers weren’t going to find themselves in a complicated finish.
LeBron James didn’t mind the booing, playing in the postseason in Boston for the first time since 2012 and the conference finals. James scored 45 points that night, making it 3-3 between the Celtics and the Heat, taking the series back to Miami, sealing the deal and moving on to the finals, winning his first NBA championship. He has never been loved in Boston, but he’s had a few big nights there despite the hate.
James scored 31 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, adding four steals and two blocks. The numbers don’t show it, but he played a big part in the focus the Cavaliers put on stopping Isaiah Thomas, limited to just 5 points on 2-of-9 from the field. Cleveland had enough of him causing problems, although it helped others find their rhythm offensively.
Someone who struggled all game long was Kyrie Irving, scoring his first field goal in the third quarter. Irving ended up scoring 13 points, but the Cavaliers had more than enough to make up for his weakest night of the postseason. Kevin Love scored 23 points including six 3-pointers while J.R. Smith enjoyed a hot start, finishing with 15 points. Tristan Thompson scored 12 and was fantastic on the offensive glass, grabbing five offensive rebounds.
Brad Stevens is coaching in his first playoff series, and keeps finding new excuses as to why his team ends up losing games that aren’t blowouts. This time? Poise. But some of his words don’t make sense. He said he loved the energy and spirit from his players, but later complained that Tristan Thompson especially outworked them sounds a little bit weird.
The Cavaliers are working with a small margin of error. They’re not giving complete 48-minute performances without drops in their ability, but that’s understandable. They’re not a perfect team or even close, and it’s too early in the playoffs to get into that mindset, especially when the level of basketball shown by the Celtics is dragging them down, which is part of the failed Stevens plan. James (but not just him) so far isn’t getting dragged anywhere, marching to his own beat, which as always, is a bit above and beyond the rest of everyone of else.