Wrap-Up — The Celtics have been a different team away from the cozy confines of TD Garden during this postseason, and the Wine & Gold jumped all over that homesick squad on Saturday night – going wire-to-wire to take Game 3 in convincing fashion, 116-86, looking to even the series on Monday night at The Q.
After a pair of frustrating defeats in Beantown, the Cavaliers were sharp from the opening tip back on their home floor – running out to a 20-4 lead midway through the first quarter and never looking back.
Saturday’s win didn’t take a monster effort from LeBron James – who still led both squads in scoring with 27 points despite watching most of the fourth quarter in warmups from the Cavs bench.
Instead, the Cavaliers got the total team effort they’d been seeking throughout the postseason. All five Cleveland starters notched double-figures, with Kyle Korver and Larry Nance Jr. posting perfect shooting nights off the bench.
As good as the Wine & Gold were on the offensive end, they were just as stingy defensively – holding Boston to 39 percent shooting as a team, including a 6-for-22 mark from long-range, while forcing 15 turnovers. The Celtics didn’t score more than 24 points in any quarter while Marcus Morris and Al Horford, who combined for 41 points in the series opener, finished with just a collective 16 points in the loss.
Speaking of tandems, the Cavaliers starting backcourt of George Hill and JR Smith – who were outscored by Celtics’ combination of Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown, 41-3, in Game 2 – got the better of Boston’s duo on Saturday night, outscoring them, 24-23.
LeBron James, who tallied his fifth 40-point game of the season on Tuesday night in Boston – set the tone early and almost made it look easy doing so.
On the evening, the four-time MVP went an efficient 8-of-12 from the floor, including 3-of-3 from long-distance and 8-of-10 from the stripe – adding a game-high 12 assists, five boards, two steals and a pair of assists in 37 minutes of work.
Kevin Love doubled-up in his second straight game and for the fifth time in the postseason – finishing with 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting to go with a game-high 14 boards.
George Hill did most of his work early, notching 11 of his 13 points in the first quarter. JR Smith finished with 11 points and five boards, going 3-of-8 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc after missing his first seven long-range attempts in the series.
”We tried not to force shots, but we were aggressive enough to take the shots that we’re accustomed to taking, the shots that we work on in practice,” said Swish. “And tonight they fell.”
Tristan Thompson – who’s now shooting 65 percent from the floor in the series – rounded out the Cavalier starters in double-figures, finishing with 10 points on 3-for-5 shooting to go with seven boards.
Kyle Korver, who rediscovered his shooting stroke in Game 2, was perfect from the floor on Saturday night – coming off the bench to tally 14 points, going 5-of-5 from the floor, including all four three-point attempts in 20 minutes of action.
”We’ve talked a lot the last few days about playing with more energy, playing with more movement, setting more screens, making more passes, getting the ball in-bounds faster, just all the little things that add up,” said Korver. “It’s one thing to say just be aggressive, and that’s the mindset we have to have, but you also have to have room to be aggressive.”
Larry Nance Jr. – Tyronn Lue’s first big off the bench in Game 2 – was just as efficient, finishing with eight points and six boards, canning all four of his field goal attempts in the win.
All five starters tally double-figures in the Cavs’ Game 3 victory.
Boston got 18 quiet points on 6-of-10 shooting from rookie Jayson Tatum, but no other Celtic made much of an impact.
”I thought LeBron really did a good job of closing out to (Brown), making him put it on the floor, cutting him off and making him play in the crowd,” praised Coach Tyronn Lue. “It was good for us to slow him down that first quarter because he’s been really good in Boston.”
Jaylen Brown, who’d netted 23 points in each of the first two games, finished with just 10 points while battling foul problems all evening. Marcus Morris and Al Horford were a combined 4-of-12 from the floor while Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart never fully got into a rhythm.
The Cavaliers shot 48 percent from the floor and were an even 50 percent from long-distance, drilling a playoff-high 17 triples in 24 attempts. Cleveland was 25-of-30 from the stripe, out-rebounded Boston, 45-34, and handed out 23 assists to 16 for the Celtics.
Turning Point — As he so often is, LeBron James was a one-man turning point on Saturday night – scoring eight straight points midway through the first quarter, capping a 13-0 Cavaliers’ run to blow things open early.
That run put the Cavaliers up, 20-4, at the 5:03 mark of the opening quarter. Cleveland would eventually extend its edge to 19 points in the first period and 23 in the second.
The Celtics would cut the Cavs’ lead under 20 points just twice more the rest of the way – with Cleveland opening its advantage to as many as 30 points – the final margin of victory – in the fourth quarter.
By the Numbers – .582, .538 … Kyle Korver’s field goal percentage (32-of-55) and three-point percentage (21-of-39) over the last seven postseason outings since the start of May.
Quotable – LeBron James, on the team’s energy in Game 3 …
”I think tonight as a group, even when things broke down, we just covered for one another. We made them make extra passes. We made the extra dribbles. We were flying around, and I just happened to be one of the guys on the floor that wanted to fly around as well.”
Up Next — With three games in the books in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavaliers host the Celtics once again on Monday night, trying to hold serve in Game 4 (5/21) in two games at The Q. On Wednesday night it’s, back to Beantown for Game 5 (5/23) and, should the series go beyond that, at Quicken Loans Arena next Friday night (5/25) for Game 6 and back in New England for the deciding Game 7 next Sunday (5/27) – all games, 8:30 p.m. ET.