Game 4 is Tuesday night in Cleveland. Irving peaked in the third quarter, scoring 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting on a series of unrelenting drives to the basket through the Celtics’ defense.
“He saw Bron went out and he wanted to put the team on his shoulders”, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “I’m not going to be critical of the best player in the world”.
But then with a golden opportunity to take the lead, James blew a tomahawk dunk with 4:15 left and Olynyk responded with a dunk of his own and a free throw.
As the third game showed, now that the Celtics are without Thomas, there’s that “unknown factor” in terms of who might emerge as their star. Two seasons ago, after returning to Cleveland, the Cavs struggled and were below.500 in January, while the Warriors became the main topic in the league.
Under most normal circumstances, Marcus Smart is a rogue element.
As ESPN reported, his Cavs teammate J.R. Smith believes a better LeBron will emerge for tonight’s game.
“I had a tough game, period”, he said. The long, looping curls created to get Boston’s point guard a clean three-pointer were not conceived with Smart in mind.
Boston’s victory may have given Cleveland a bit of a wakeup call, or provided basketball fans with a series. He lacked the energy and sense of urgency displayed in Boston.
So was the Celtics’ Game 3 win just fool’s gold, setting everybody up for a painful Game 5 in Boston?
In fact, those games should be easy to remember because they are so rare.
The win all but ensured a third consecutive finals appearance for the Cavs.
Boston’s comeback was fueled by Thomas’ replacement, Marcus Smart, who made 7 of 10 3-pointers and scored 27 points.
All it took was one bad game for the LeBron James haters to come out of hiding and puff out their chest: “You’d never see Michael Jordan put up those numbers in a game that big!” So. A game we should have won, but they played hard. Those guys made plays. Eight C’s scored at least three points, led by 13 apiece from Bradley and Jae Crowder, and the team committed only three turnovers during the first 24 minutes of action.
So maybe that’s what’ll get the big national play today: When LeBron picked up his fourth foul (that’s right, his fourth!) in the second quarter and disappeared for the remaining 6:46 of the half, Irving picked up his game. When his 3-pointer splashed with a half-second left in the quarter, the Cavs led 87-80. But together they’re about to go to their third straight Finals since James and Irving joined forces and invited Kevin Love.
Some day, down the road, all of James’ kingdom in Cleveland could be his, even if Irving is ready right now. The Celtics, following a drop-off during the second half, totaled 99 points, 29 rebounds and 26 assists as a team. But if the Cavaliers push the series to six games or seven, this saga of a season will be memorable. Another spark for the Celtics was Jonas Jerebko, who utilized his 12 minutes of action with 10 points, showing off his physicality and making 4-of-4 from the field, including two crucial three-pointers. Bradley says that Thursday will be a different story.
For the past three seasons, LeBron has been in the shadows, as much as the greatest player of his generation and perhaps of all-time can actually be.
And if you did think it was going to last, you’re either blinded by Green Team loyalty or you are badly in need of a course in Introductory LeBron.
As Keith mentioned it took the rest of the roster firing on all cylinders and Marcus Smart having an nearly statistically impossible shooting night for the Celtics to scrape by with the win, plus that last shot from Avery Bradley was probably the friendliest bounce I’ve ever seen on a long ball. Boston could swing the ball around the perimeter all the way to Smart, who then wobbles his way through traffic-with his dribble being almost poked away on several occasions-into a wild layup attempt kept down but by the lip of the rim.
These are just the type of things that can happen when a team has multiple All-Stars.