Already down 0-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, dropping game 3 would certainly be the death knell in the series, their season and potentially Lebron James’ second tenure with the Cavaliers.
With their wire-to-wire 166-86 dismantling, the Cavaliers have at least move the goalpost on those topics back 48 hours and most importantly, taken a step in getting back in the series.
Cleveland jumped on Boston right out of the gate building 20-4 lead less than seven minutes into the game. The Cavaliers’ would lead by as much as 19 in the opening period and would end the first quarter up by fifteen points, 32-17. It was more of the same in the second quarter, with Cleveland extending the advantage to a much as 23 points with 1:01 to go in the half when George Hill sunk a pair of free throws. The Cavaliers would take a commanding 20 point lead, 61-41, into halftime.
The onslaught would continue in the second half, with Boston drawing no closer than 19 points and would go on to lose by thirty points, 116-86.
LeBron James had 27 points and 12 assists and showed the focus and engagement, particularly on the defensive side of the court, that had seemingly been missing in the previous two contests. The Cavaliers as a whole looked far more competent and formidable on the defensive end, giving the basketball world a tantalizing glimpse at what they are capable of. This is the type of effort that will be required if they are to climb completely out of the hole they are still in and ultimately seize control of this series.
”Even when things broke down, we just covered for one another,” James said. ”We made them make extra passes. We made them make 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.”
Cleveland’s shooting eye also seemed to have returned with coming back to the friendly confines of Quicken Loans Arena, as they knocked down 17 of their 34 three-point attempts; sharpshooter Kyle Korver knocked down all four of his attempts.
The Cavaliers also got long-awaited contributions from George Hill, who finished with 13; J.R. Smith who chipped in with 11 and Tristan Thompson had 10 points and 7 rebounds. Although Kevin Love was only 4-of-12 from the field he had 13 points and thirteen rebounds and actually played solid defense in several instances. In total Cleveland had five players score in double figures.
Boston coach Brad Stevens summed it up succinctly with his comments after the game:
They took it to us. Point blank: They just outplayed us.”
The series resumes Monday for game 4 in another pivotal contest. Tip time is 8:30 EST.