The Cleveland Cavaliers had put forth rather pitiful efforts in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. After getting blown out in Game 1 and losing Game 2 despite a 42-point triple-double from LeBron James, the Cavs entered the dreaded “must-win” territory back at home for Game 3.
The result was a dominant 116-86 performance from Cleveland led by LeBron, who got some tremendous support from the role players around him. LeBron was able to be a playmaker in Game 3 rather than a brutalizing scorer, which suits him better and leads to wildly efficient nights like what he had on Saturday.
James had 27 points, 12 assists, and five rebounds in a light (for him) 38 minutes of work. He had some of those moments where he physically dominated the Celtics, but most of the game he worked in harmony with his teammates, which was a dramatic departure from the first two games in Boston. No play was more evident of that change than his ridiculous reverse dunk off a beautiful pass from Kevin Love (and, later, another alley-oop from Love).
Beyond getting buckets, LeBron was setting his teammates up and delivering some absurd passes of his own.
The rest of the Cavs main rotation all had solid impacts on the game as well. George Hill got things going with 11 first quarter points (finishing with 13). J.R. Smith hit 3-for-4 threes on his way to 11 points, while Kyle Korver came off the bench to knock down four threes.
In total, six Cavs reached double figures and Jordan Clarkson (nine points) and Larry Nance Jr. (eight points) weren’t far behind thanks to some fourth quarter contributions.
Boston, meanwhile, saw its offensive production regress tremendously, following a pattern that we’ve seen all playoffs from the Celtics where they struggle to make shots on the road. Boston shot 39.2 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three-point range, as no one on the Celtics could get comfortable and ever lead a charge to get them back in the game. Cleveland, meanwhile, had its best offensive game by far in the series, shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range to run Boston out of the gym.
Game 4 on Monday night will be very interesting to see if the Cavs continue their hot shooting at home and if Boston can find anything on the road to avoid going back to Boston tied at 2-2.