Cavs dominate from the tip, torch Cs to bring the series to 2-1
After what felt like an eternity away from the hardwood, our beloved Boston Celtics made the trek to Cleveland, Ohio, taking the court to face the Cleveland Lebrons (err, Cavaliers) for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The question entering the game was: will Lebron James have to shoulder all the responsibility again, or would he finally get some help?
I hate to report it was the latter.
The Cavs drew first blood with a George Hill floater and an easy Tristan Thompson dunk, while the Cs started 1/5 from the field. Midway through the first, the Celtics couldn't find the bucket, with the exception of a couple Terry Rozier shots.
Jaylen Brown picked up two quick fouls, but we were still well within striking distance, just down 9-4.
After a timeout, the Cavs pulled away to a 20-4 lead, thanks to a few triples by JR Smith and Lebron. And a few turnovers by Boston. With 3:50 left in the first, our stout defense was nowhere to be found. And no matter what Brad Stevens tried, even inserting Guerschon Yabusele into the lineup, was failing.
Something we haven't seen in the first two games, and were hoping we wouldn't see, is happening here: Lebron is getting help. Namely from veteran George Hill, who has 11 points on 4/6 from the field, including 3 triples.
Boston playing with no urgency. Lot of midrange jumpers on offense, sloppy with the ball early. Meanwhile, Cleveland getting balanced offense from its starters.
The second quarter started pretty much how the first ended. Lebron played like the maestro that he is, getting guys like Larry Nance Jr. and Thompson wide open dunks on some gorgeous passes.
Midway through the second, the Cavs continue their hot shooting, hitting 7/12 from downtown. And Jeff Green is making fadeaway jumpers. Yeah, I said Jeff Green. Cavs are up 45-28, and the Celtics are playing completely uncharacteristically in all facets.
The one silver lining in the first was first-year phenom Jayson Tatum getting Tatum-like buckets.
After cutting the lead to 14, the Cavs once again surged, ramping their lead to 20. Love got an easy post-up jump hook over Smart. And Lebron hit another three after Rozier missed a bunny.
With only a few minutes left in the first half, the Celtics were shooting only 37%, while Lebron was 5/7 with 5 assists, totaling 17 points.
Going into the half, the Cavs were just flat out dominating. JR "Should've Been Suspended" Smith has hit a couple big shots, Lebron with a dunk he'll add to his highlight reel, and Boston pretty much missing everything.
At the start of the 3rd, the Cavs train kept running and the Celtics kept fluttering, extending their lead to 26.
Rozier quickly responded with a nice drive and dunk, but Jaylen Brown just as quickly headed to the bench after picking up his 4th foul.
Can someone call the Celtics' equipment manager? Someone left our league-leading defense back in the locker room. Completely M.I.A. on that side of the ball, the Celtics gave up easy layups and dunks all night. Most of which were assisted by - guess who? - Lebron James.
With 2:52 left in the 3rd, the Cavs were up 81-57. The only fight the Celtics showed was with the officiating -- which clearly wasn't the issue today. It wasn't been great, but we didn't do anything to help ourselves. Like protecting the glass (Cavs led 37-23 in the rebound category).
END OF THE 3RD: Cavs 87, Boston 63.
At the start of the final quarter of Game 3, Marcus Smart attacked the basket, drawing a foul and getting to the line; he hit both from the stripe, but Kyle Korver immediately followed with back to back triples, and another by Jordan Clarkson. Par for tonight's course.
The Cavs were up to 53% from downtown, hitting on 15/28 attempts. While Boston was just 6/17. That's +27 in that category. Not surprisingly, at that moment we were down exactly 27: 98-71.
While there was a long layoff between Games 2 and 3, it's a good thing that Game 4 will be on Monday. Hopefully our young guns have a short meHopefully, this time, the Celtics will actually show up. Because the last thing you want to do is give the king and his subjects any more life.
Follow Edward Babaian on Twitter: @bojixbabaian Photo Credit: Boston Globe