LeBron, Cavs try to shake 'weird' loss in Game 3 to Celtics

LeBron, Cavs try to shake 'weird' loss in Game 3 to Celtics

LeBron, Cavs try to shake 'weird' loss in Game 3 to Celtics

As seen in Game 3, Boston wants to flip the script.

The Cleveland Cavaliers found much success from three-point range against the Boston Celtics in the first half of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Quicken Loans Arena, but it was a far different story after the break Sunday night. He scored just 11 points - zero in the final 16 minutes - as the Cleveland Cavaliers blew a 21-point lead and lost 111-108 to Boston in the Eastern Conference finals. 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. The Cavaliers won 112-99.

There's no explaining why a player as dominant as LeBron suddenly becomes emotionally detached over the final quarter of a playoff game the Boston Celtics had no business winning.

Yet, on a insane night in which Marcus Smart of all people scored 27 points with seven made 3-pointers and LeBron James had more turnovers (six) than made field goals (four), the Celtics stunned the National Basketball Association, winning 111-108 after a 24-8 run in the third quarter turned the tide.

The Cleveland Cavaliers should have handily won Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) gathers a rebound over Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) during the first half of Game 5 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals, on Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Boston.

Love continued to knock down shots from the outside, Irving sliced his way into the lane to the rim and James got free for several of his one-handed, tomahawk dunks.

The pain couldn't stop him.

James said he just had an off-night. "I didn't have it" just about sums it up. "He was born for these moments".

But if Games 3 and 4 are any indication, it won't be easy.

The Cavs, meanwhile, wouldn't be on the cusp of the Finals without Irving. James had his worst night of the playoffs in Game 3, scoring only 11 points on 4 of 13 shooting. Avery Bradley added in 20 points and two steals. After a disgusting loss at home in Game 2, most wrote off the series as another easy sweep by the dominant Cleveland Cavaliers team.

"You obviously hear people saying that it's all about how you respond, and we don't feel like people believed in us and counted us out", Bradley said.

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"In the back of my mind, I thought, 'They can't tie up the series, '" he said. "You let a team like that grab momentum you nearly knew a shot like that was going in". "We needed everything tonight".

"Marcus Smart made 15 out of 77 off-the-dribble threes this year", Lue said, defending his defensive plan on Smart. Nothing was keeping him out.

In Game 3, that kind of LeBron looked a mile away. All along the Celtics have been a competitive team.

"There's choices", Stevens said.

As Lue spoke to a large group of reporters and some Cavs players got in extra shots following practice, James was noticeably absent from the floor. "I thought we had opportunities to attack and play with pace and get downhill, but we didn't really push it and play with that speed and try to attack offensively". Jae Crowder provided 14 points and led the team with rebounds at 11.

Irving, who has had a history of injuries, said he's rolled his ankle enough times to know when it's serious. "That's what I've got to say about my performance".

They've given themselves a chance to erase the sting of their 44-point loss in Game 2.

"That's no excuse. They played well, but we've just got to play better, be more physical". "I hope we can continue to play with that chip on our shoulder and come out the same way next game".

Marcus Smart and the Celtics weren't ready to be put away just yet.

"They called them", he said of the officials. He had scored at least 30 points in eight straight playoff games and imposed his will in the first two games. Cleveland improved to 35-5 against Eastern teams in the playoffs since 2015. Smith posted photos on his Instagram account of the couple leaving Hillcrest Hospital with their baby in a stroller.

If the Celtics were playing with house money heading into the series, they are flush with it again as they return to the Garden.

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