The Celtics shocked the Cavaliers with a 111-108 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
USA TODAY Sports
CLEVELAND — Takeaways from the Boston Celtics’ 111-108 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals at Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday night.
LeBron James had his worst game of the postseason with 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting, including 0-for-4 on three-pointers. He had six rebounds, six assists and six turnovers and scored just three points in the second half and zero in the final 16 minutes, 32 seconds.
“I had a tough game, period,” James said. “Not just in the second half. Me personally, I didn’t have it. My teammates did a great job of keeping us in the game, building that lead. But me personally, I didn’t have it. That’s all I’ve got to say about my performance.”
James’ run of playoff games with at least 30 points ended at eight. He has scored at least 30 in nine of 11 playoff games. Celtics coach Brad Stevens wasn’t about to take any credit for “stopping” James.
“I don’t want to act like we’ve figured anything out,” Stevens said.
Even though Kyrie Irving (29 points) and Kevin Love (28 points) had great scoring games, it’s tough for the Cavs to win with James scoring just 11.
Celtics plays after timeouts
Stevens has a reputation for drawing up great plays during a timeout.
Stevens’ after timeout plays – known as ATOs – worked to perfection. In the final minute, the Celtics called three timeouts and they scored after each one – an Al Horford jump shot, a long Jonas Jerebko two-pointer and Avery Bradley’s game-winning three-pointer.
“I said that before the series even started about Brad Stevens’ ATOs,” James said. “He has so many different wrinkles, misdirection, thinking the ball is going this way, he has a misdirection going the other way. You’ve got to kind of keep your head on a swivel. He has a lot of packages. So you can plan for a few, but then he might run something you’ve never seen before.”
On Bradley’s three-pointer, that misdirection came into play. Cleveland lost track of Bradley and Horford set a screen on Tristan Thompson, giving Bradley an open shot.
“That’s one of the good things about this team is we’re able to believe in whatever Brad draws up,” Bradley said. “If it’s a good play, bad play, whatever it is, we all believe in it. … It’s our job to go out there and make sure that we make the next right play.
Cavs got three-point happy
Cleveland is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA – regular season and playoffs. In the first half, the Cavs made 14 three-pointers – seven by Love, four by Irving, two by J.R. Smith and one by Kyle Korver.
Cleveland shot 63.6% on threes in the first half, but in the second half, Cleveland made just two of 17. Of the Cavs’ 70 field goal attempts, 39 were three-pointers.
“Only making two threes in the second half, scoring 21 in the third and 21 in the fourth, that’s not us offensively,” Cavs coach Ty Lue said. “Not shooting the basketball well, not scoring well, it happens. But when that happens, you’ve got to be able to get stops, especially being up 20 points.”
Cleveland committed 15 turnovers, including five in the fourth quarter. Give Boston credit for making shots, which they didn’t do well in the first two games, and criticize Cleveland for lackluster defense. Boston had several open looks, especially in the second half.
“I just think physically we weren’t as physical as we needed to be defensively,” Lue said. “They got some open shots and moved around freely.”
Celtics guard Marcus Smart is not knowing for his scoring. He averaged 10.6 points during the regular season, and through 16 playoff games, just 8.8 points.
But Smart had a team-high 27 points and made a playoff career-high seven three-pointers while taking on tough defensive assignments.
“In this moment when we needed him the most, he made huge shots,” Stevens said.
He also had seven assists, five rebounds and two steals.
“I thought he was really purposeful all night,” Stevens said. “He’s competitive, spirited, but played with good poise. He was tremendous. … One of the things about Marcus is he’s going to play regardless of the score.
Said Smart: “Coming into this game, I just really wanted to stay positive with myself and make sure that I could do everything that I could do to help my team, whether that was scoring, passing the ball, playing defense, whatever it was. Tonight, I had a great shooting night, and that was huge for us.”
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