Complete effort from Cavs leads to rout of Celtics in Game 3

LeBron James leads 6 in double figures with 27 points

Daryl Ruiter
May 19, 2018 - 11:01 pm
Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) passes the ball in front of Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris (13) during the first quarter in game three of the Eastern conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Just under 2 hours before Game 3 Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said he was not “concerned” or “discouraged” about their 0-2 deficit.

And we found out why Saturday night.

Everything Lue and the Cavs lamented about their trip to Boston, they reversed – defense, physicality, pace of play, sharing the ball, moving the ball, balanced scoring and no third quarter collapse as they beat the Celtics at their own game leading wire-to-wire in a 116-86 laugher at Quicken Loans Arena.

It all came together for Cleveland as 6 Cavaliers scored in double figures, led by 27 from LeBron James, as they cut Boston's lead in the Eastern Conference Finals to 2-1.

"Having 6 guys in double figures, that's big," Lue said. "I thought we played an all-around game tonight, defensively and offensively."

Game 4 is Monday night.

James didn’t have to carry the Cavs Saturday night. In fact, he got to take the final 6:49 of the evening off, but he got his highlights in early.

In the second quarter Kevin Love, who finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds, bounced a pass to James in the lane. James gathered it and went airborne for the double-clutch reverse smash bringing the sellout crowd to their feet. James threw down another lob from Love in the third quarter and paid the lobs forward with a toss up to Larry Nance Jr. among an assortment of pin-point passing that resulted in him tallying 12 assists to go with 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals.

"They're all pretty difficult. Don't try it at home," James said of his passing prowess.

"He's the best in the game at facilitating," Love, who was seated next to James in the post game presser, said a few moments earlier.  

After shooting 14 of 57 from 3 in Games 1 and 2 combined, the Cavs made it rain from downtown all night long burying 17 of 34 from deep.

"I thought we did a good job moving the basketball and making the extra pass, and we shot it well tonight," Lue said. "When we're playing like that, guys are going to get open shots. We've just got to make them."

James hit all 3 of his tries from beyond the arc, Kyle Korver came off the bench to make all 5 of his shots – 4 from 3 – to finish with 14 points while J.R. Smith and Jordan Clarkson both added 3 makes from downtown in the win.

"I think we got better shots," Korver said. "You want all the shots to fall, but when you get better looks and you get plays, you get the shots from the offense and not just the isolation or a kick-out."

After allowing the Celtics to stroll to the basket at will in Boston, the Cavs clamped down defensively, challenging anyone and everyone that went to the rim. As a result, the Celtics shot just 39.2 percent.

Cleveland won the night on the scoreboard, 45-34 on the glass, 23-16 in assists and 38-34 scoring in the paint.

"Overall, across the board, we just did a better job getting in the passing lanes and overall did a better job contesting shots," Love said. "They didn't feel us in Game 1 or 2 and we did a better job of that tonight."

The Cavs got the start they talked all week about needing as they raced out to a 20-4 advantage midway through the first quarter and led 32-17 after 1 and they didn't look back.  

James had 19 at halftime and Hill, who scored just 8 points combined in the first 2 games, was the only other player for Cleveland in double figures with 13 as they built a 61-41 halftime advantage. Cleveland out-scored Boston in the paint and out-rebounded them 22-14 in the first 24 minutes.

“I can tell you right off the top of my head there was a lot of breakdown defensively - it’s something we have to address and be better at on Monday if we want to have any chance of winning,” Al Horford, who was held to 7 points and 7 rebounds, said. "Give Cleveland credit, they were the better team tonight."

The Cavs stretched the lead to 24, 87-63, after 3 thanks to 11 points from Love and strong offensive and defensive contributions from Smith and Tristan Thompson in the quarter.

Smith scored 11 while Thompson had 10 points and 7 rebounds in the win.

"We've been down before, and we've just got to keep fighting our way out of it," Smith said. "It's just 1 game at home. We've got to win 2 at home and take the show back on the road and try to get 1 in Boston."