By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — After a four-day layoff, the Boston Celtics headed to Cleveland with a chance to earn a victory that would, for all intents and purposes, bury the Cavaliers for good. Considering the Cavs only looked moderately interested in competing during Games 1 and 2, the odds appeared to be in Boston’s favor to get the job done on Saturday night.
But that did not happen. Not even close.
The Cavaliers won a game that was never close, in blowout fashion, 116-86, on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
“I think that they were great,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of the Cavaliers. “We were not, clearly not the harder-playing, more-connected team tonight. Cleveland was.”
Instead of the Celtics taking command of the series, it was the Cavaliers who hit the ground running in Game 3, hitting shots early, putting in the required effort on defense, and reducing the Celtics to essentially being spectators through the early part of the first quarter. Boston, meanwhile, missed too many shots, committed careless turnovers, and just overall looked like a completely different team than the one that opened up the 2-0 series lead back in Boston.
Coming out of the first TV timeout, the Cavaliers stretched their 9-4 lead to a 20-4 lead. For the Celtics, it never really got better from there.
The Cavaliers built a 15-point lead by the end of the first quarter and extended it to 20 points at halftime. LeBron James went 3-for-3 from 3-point range in that half, part of the Cavaliers shooting 9-for-17 from 3-point range in the opening 24 minutes. That was, quite obviously, a far cry from the 0-for-12 numbers the Cavaliers posted from long range in the first half of Game 1.
The Celtics were just 2-for-9 from 3-point range in the first half, which contributed to the 20-point deficit. The shooting, though, was just one of many issues for a Boston team that looked disjointed and ill-prepared for the moment from the opening tip.
The Celtics, who have made a number of memorable runs to climb out of huge holes several times this year, made no such run in the third quarter. But not on this night, as Cleveland outscored Boston by four points in the third quarter. The Celtics failed to put up a fight to the point where the ESPN broadcast crew spent long stretches discussing the minutiae of flagrant fouls before carrying a lengthy discussion about the royal wedding.
The Celtics learned in Games 1 and 2 what happens when so much goes right for them and so much goes wrong for Cleveland. Game 3 was just the opposite. The Celtics shot just 39 percent from the field, 27 percent from 3-point range, and they lost the rebound battle by 11. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, shot 49 percent from the field and an even 50 percent from 3. As one might expect, the Celtics were never in the game.
“Clearly the team that played with more energy was Cleveland,” Stevens said. “And they guarded us with more togetherness.”
Plain and simple, the Celtics were a no-show for Game 3. They’ll look for a better showing on Monday night in Game 4.