The Cavs got a little cocky and it came back to bite them. The Cavaliers took a 66-50 lead into halftime, but a sloppy second half landed them in a deadlock with the Celtics, who were without Isaiah Thomas and will be throughout the rest of the Playoffs. On the game’s final possession, the Cavaliers were victimized by a defensive miscue that saw both Iman Shumpert and JR Smith chase Jae Crowder off a curl screen, which left Avery Bradley wide open from the left wing. Bradley’s three-pointer hit every part of the rim and eventually fell through with .01 remaining, giving the Celtics a 111-108 win.
What went well
Kevin Love (28 points, 10 rebounds) and Kyrie Irving (29 points, 7 assists) were both fantastic for the Cavaliers, as was Tristan Thompson (15 points, 13 rebounds). Love and Irving were incredibly efficient from the field, while Thompson was unstoppable on the glass and played a major role with keeping the Cavaliers in the game when the Celtics threatened to pull away with opportunities in the fourth quarter.
The Cavs are human and maybe needed a wakeup call. Perhaps the message that was sent tonight was better delivered now than in a few games.
Without their best player, the Celtics were better defensively and overall more aggressive and physical than the Cavs. Part of that has to do with the personnel groupings, part of that has to do with the fact that Celtics felt disrespected after getting blown out in the series’ first two games, and part of that had to do with the fact that the Cavaliers were, for all intents and purposes, flat.
The Cavaliers were sloppy offensively, totaling 15 turnovers and having to end multiple possessions with forced shots near the end of the shot clock. LeBron James was a major culprit in this effort, accounting for 6 turnovers, while making on 4 field goals and dishing out only 6 assists. This was, by far, James’ worst performance of the postseason.
But the Cavaliers have overcome lackluster performances from James in the past. It was the team’s second unit, which has been very good at times and very bad at times that was a major eyesore in this one. The Cavaliers’ four-man bench unit combined for only 9 points on a combined 3-of-14 from the field. With James’ sloppy play, the Cavaliers were looking for someone to step out of the woodwork. That really didn’t happen in this one and the scoreboard reflected it.
Adjustments for next game
Channing Frye has not played much in this series and logged a DNP-Coach’s Decision in Game 3. Frye has been an integral part of the team’s second unit and has provided players like James more space in which to operate. With the Celtics loading up defensively, it might be wise to get Frye some more playing time.
Other than that, the Cavaliers simply need to re-gain their focus. After looking completely locked since the second half of Game 3 in their opening round series against the Pacers, the Cavaliers were bound for a mental lapse of some sort. Unfortunately, this particular lapse resulted in a loss. Again, this might not be the worst thing to happen to the Cavaliers.
Game 4 Predictions
The greatest players usually avoid back-to-back poor performances, so it would be a safe bet that the Celtics will see a heavy dose of LeBron James early and often in Game 4. As a team, the Cavaliers will be more prepared for a physical battle in Game 4 and will play with a higher sense of urgency and a lot of energy. The Quicken Loans Arena crowd will feed off this energy and the Cavaliers will take a 3-1 series lead as the series shifts back to Boston for Game 5.