There is just something about the TD Garden in Boston that brings out the best in LeBron James. Maybe LeBron wants to erase the fact that it was in that building in May of 2010 where his first stint with the wine and gold came to an end. James filled up the stats sheet in game three of the Cavaliers first round playoff series in the 103-95 win over the Celtics. Now LeBron and the Cavs are thinking sweep when game four takes place in Boston on Sunday afternoon.
James established himself offensively early and often and inside and outside. LeBron finished with a game high 31 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks. James shot 50 percent from the field in the game, 13 of 26. It was another terrific performance in front of the Celtics fans who certainly have grown to not like the pride of Akron, Ohio very much.
LeBron’s all around performance was terrific because of the struggles Kyrie Irving had in game three. Irving finished with just 13 points on three of eleven shooting. The Celtics game plan was clearly to slow down the wine and gold’s point guard and make others beat them. The Celtics were successful with part of the plan, but the Cavs performance as a team spoiled Boston’s game plan as well.
The Big three combined for 67 of the Cavaliers 103 points on Thursday night. Kevin Love had his best offensive performance of the series. Love had 23 points including six made three pointers including the clinching triple in the final minute of the game. Love missed a double double by just one rebound, but Love being versatile both inside and outside is something Cavaliers fans will take over a double double anyday, especially in the playoffs.
J.R. Smith went to the Cavaliers morning shoot around an hour early with LeBron in an effort to get his shot back after two disappointing performances at home in games one and two. The extra shooting help as the man nicknamed J.R. ‘Swish’ finished with 15 points on six of 12 shooting and three of eight from long distance. Smith was active on the boards and on defense with five rebounds and a pair of steals.
Timofey Mozgov only played 19 minutes in game three finishing with only five points and six rebounds.
For a third straight game, the Celtics bench outscored the Cavs bench significantly, 37 to 16. However, Tristan Thompson played very big again in game three. Thompson did crack the scoring column on Thursday night with 12 points and added seven rebounds, the last two coming late in the game to stop a last chance rally by Boston. The last of his two blocks was a key late in the fourth quarter. Thompson blocked what looked to be an easy layup for Tyler Zeller off an inbounds pass. Iman Shumpert knocked down a pair of jumpers to round out the bench scoring for the Cavaliers.
One guy the Cavs focused on tremendously on the defensive end was Isaiah Thomas. After leading the Celtics in scoring of the bench in games one and two with 22 points in each game, Thomas was held to just five points on two of nine shooting. A lot of the credit goes to Shumpert who made it his responsibility to contain the Celtics shooter.
Evan Turner and Avery Bradley had their best offensive games of the series in game three. Tuner lead the Celtics with 19 points, Bradley added 18. Jae Crowder lead Boston off the bench with 16 points, Jared Sullinger finished with ten.
Free throws were a problem for the Cavaliers in game three. Cleveland shot just 15 of 24 from the charity stripe after going 25 for 27 in game two. Boston used the hack a Thompson late in the first quarter on Tristan. Thompson went three for six from the line in the quarter and finished four of eight for the game. Making free throws will be important in game four if the Cavs hope to bring out the brooms in Boston.
The Cavaliers can close out the Celtics on Sunday afternoon in game four. In the history of the NBA playoffs, no team has lost a series in which they lead three games to none.