Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals was the Cavs' perfect storm

Can the Cavs replicate the effort in Game 4?

Jake Chapman
May 20, 2018 - 6:24 pm

© Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

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The Cavs’ 116-86 Game 3 drubbing of the Celtics was a pleasant surprise for both Cavs fans and the Cavs themselves.

“I thought we would play a lot better tonight. I did not think this would happen tonight,” Kyle Korver said post game.

It was a night where the Celtics' only 'W' was Al Horford controlling the opening tip. It was all downhill from there, a sharp contrast from Games 1 and 2 in Boston. The Cavs rained 3’s, connecting on 17 of 34 attempts. They were a combined 14-57 in Games 1 and 2. Tristan Thompson held Horford to just 7 points on 4 shots. Horford averaged 17.5 points on 11.5 shots in Games 1 and 2. Jaylen Brown played just 21 minutes after getting himself in foul trouble early. He finished with 10 points after posting 23 in both Games 1 and 2. The Celtics turned the ball over 15 times in Game 3. Games 1 and 2 totals: 9, 5. And on and on.

It was a perfect storm for the Cavaliers. Most expected a better effort at home, and Boston is now 1-5 on the road in the postseason, but a 30-point boat-racing? Nobody saw that coming, and I don't expect a duplicate in Game 4 on Monday night.

The three days’ rest before Game 2 certainly helped the Cavs, as J.R. Smith so eloquently stated.

“It helped us a lot cause we old. We got some old guys over here. I think they got one guy born in ’98, ’99, it’s like… just to think about that is crazy. So, we needed it. We definitely did,” he said post game.

The short turnaround before Game 4 may be advantage Boston.

Brad Stevens, the anointed one, the ATO Einstein, the mismatch Messiah, Lord of the white board, is probably holed up in the Ritz’s boiler room right now feeding algorithms into a Microsoft surface.

He spoke of seriously shaking up the rotation after game. His primary objective for Game 4 will be reincorporating Al Horford offensively, and Ty Lue and the Cavs staff need to be prepared for a bunch of different looks. A quick turnaround in a playoff series can really highlight a coaching discrepancy. After bumbling through Games 1 and 2, Lue deserves (some) credit for the wrinkles and adjustments we saw from the Cavs in Game 3. But his biggest test will likely be Game 4, and that makes me a little nervous.

The Cavs likely won’t shoot as well in Game 4 as they did in Game 3, but there are a few things they absolutely can replicate. The pace with which they got into their offense, the ball movement, the balance, the Cavs can repeat those processes in Game 4. LeBron James controlled the game while taking just 12 shots.

He took 16 shots in Game 1 and 29 in Game 2. James knows his offense is at its best when they’re getting easy looks in transition, when they knock down triples early in the game to soften things up, and when they’re crisp and active with their ball movement and off-ball movement in the halfcourt. He’s capable of forcing all those things to happen.

One caveat: Boston’s Game 3 turnover issues helped out in all these areas. The Cavs made things easy on themselves with their active hands and defensive aggressiveness (jumpstarted by James himself.) They need to bring the same intensity at that end in Game 4.

The Cavs halted the Celtics momentum early in Game 3, and by the end of the rout they’d built up a ton of momentum themselves. But Game 4 will be its own story. There are certain things the Cavs can and should do again.

But I expect Game 4 to be a closer battle than we’ve seen all series.