After last night's shocking upset at Cleveland in the third game of the NBA Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Globe headline began, "Without Isaiah".
The Celtics got out to that early lead as they played more of a motion offense and for a while it looked as though they were going to level the series going back to Boston, but there was no stopping Irving in the second half and the Celtics' offense faded as the game wore on. The Celtics then outscored the Cavs by 11 points and eight points in the third and fourth quarters respectively. The Cavs have officially lost their first playoff game.
The Cavs led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter on Sunday but they shot 2-for-17 from three-point range in the second half.
Coming off of a 111-108 Game 3 loss, the Cavaliers looked like they might lose another game to the Celtics at halftime of Game 4. "I hope we can continue to play with that chip on our shoulder and come out the same way next game". Cleveland is expecting another unflinching effort in Game 5 from a Celtics team that isn't backing down despite facing a 3-1 deficit in the series.
"It's hard not to think about because as I continue to get older and I'm playing with an unbelievable player like Bron, you know, from the outsider's perspective, it could be seen a few ways, and for me, it's - it hasn't been anything short of difficult, trying to figure out when will it be my time", Irving said. Its the Eastern Conference finals. It's not enough, for him, for what he does, for what he brings.
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Pluto says the credit goes to LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Boston scored 22 points on 16 ATOs, translating to 137.5 points per 100 possessions. This statement from Lue is even more baffling when combined with the fact that the Celtics have been without Isaiah Thomas since the middle of Game 2. Not only did Smart bust Cleveland's coverage by hitting seven of his 10 three-point attempts, but he helped maintain a healthy, humming offense for 42 minutes against the best team in the conference.
Marcus Smart led the way with seven 3-pointers of his own (7-10) for the game. The long, looping curls created to get Boston's point guard a clean three-pointer were not conceived with Smart in mind. Game 3 was perhaps the most compelling example of the make-or-miss league that people call the National Basketball Association. He's been bad in his three seasons with the Celtics, where his 29.1 percent career number is just decimal points away from what it was at OSU.
The Cavs' apparent listlessness didn't make sense: more playoff games mean more work and a greater risk of injury before the finals.
Cleveland committed 15 turnovers, including five in the fourth quarter. Boston needs him to do it again. For over/under bettors, 217.5 points is the points total to speculate on. That was enough to tie the Celtics entire team by himself.
The loss snapped Cleveland's 10-game winning streak in this postseason and a 13-game run dating to Game 4 of last year's Finals. Eastern Time on Tuesday evening.
But they didn't. They left the door open for the Cavs and couldn't hold down what has been the best playoff offense we've ever seen.