By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There was a multitude of surprises that took place Sunday evening in Cleveland during Game 3 between the Celtics and Cavaliers. At the top of that list was, of course, the scoreboard, which read “Celtics 111, Cavaliers 108.”READ MORE: I-Team: High School Failure Rates In Massachusetts Jumped During Pandemic
How it happened was anything but routine. Marcus Smart — a career 29.1 percent 3-point shooter — drained seven of his 10 attempts from long range. Jae Crowder nearly doubled up his average by hauling in 11 rebounds. On the other side, LeBron James went just 4-for-13, scoring 11 points with six turnovers — arguably the worst game of his career.
And then, of course, there was Jonas Jerebko.
The 30-year-old Swede is not exactly a household name around the country, yet he made his presence felt with authority in Game 3. And he did it in just 13 minutes on the floor.
Whether it was hitting an absolutely clutch to give the Celtics a two-point lead with 30 seconds left in the game, or setting a hard screen on Deron Williams to send the Cavs’ backup point guard to the bench with a sore shoulder, Jerebko came out of nowhere to help the Celtics to an improbable victory over the team that had just beaten them by 44 points just two nights earlier.
And if there’s one player who was forced to deal with Jerebko’s existence, it was Cavs forward Kevin Love.
Love — who’s been an all-star four times and was named to the NBA’s All-Second Team twice in his career — was battling with Jerebko for position on the low post. The two were getting physical with each other, and the battle ended with Jerebko wrapping his arms around Love and guiding the power forward to the floor.
As the whistles blew for a foul, Jerebko stood over Love — who outweighs Jerebko by a good 20 pounds — as if to say, “Really?”
Jerebko was obviously bothered by Love being so light on his feet, and after the game, Jerebko made it clear what his beef was.READ MORE: 'Had A Heart Of Gold': Construction Worker Killed In Newton Identified As Russell Harron
“Yeah, I thought he flopped. I just thought he flopped. I don’t like people flopping. I don’t flop. So I just had to tell him,” Jerebko told reporters. “He kind of laughed. He knew he flopped. He knew he did it. He’s a great player, you know, but, stand up, don’t flop. That’s my motto at least.”
Jerebko — who has started exactly eight basketball games over the past six seasons and played just 18 minutes in the second-round series vs. Washington — also discussed his pair of tussles with Williams, who while now an aging role player is a two-time member of the All-NBA Second Team and is a three-time all-star.
“It was nothing. I’m just trying to be out there playing tough, setting tough screens, trying to get my teammates open,” Jerebko said. “And [Williams] wanted to stand in the middle of the court while I was running. Referee said I had to run around him; I tried to run through him. Stuff like that happens.”
After the game, in an interview with TNT’s “Inside The NBA” crew, Jerebko was asked by Charles Barkley why it took the Celtics until Game 3 to fight back against the bully.
“I think we gave them a little bit too much respect in those first two games,” Jerebko admitted. “We’re out there to compete, and I don’t think we competed that hard those first two games. I just wanted to come out there and play aggressive, and play with some attitude, and obviously it felt good to knock down some shots, too.”
Jerebko also got into the face of Kyle Corver a bit, and a reporter asked Jerebko why he broke from his normal demeanor in this particular game.
“I think it’s always my demeanor,” Jerebko replied. “I’m just trying to play hard. I don’t really care who I’m playing against. I’m just always trying to help my team win, make tough plays. I didn’t do anything dirty out there; we’re just trying to play hard.”
The Cavaliers, of course, are still the superior team and will likely make the necessary adjustments to win this series over the Celtics. Yet in just 13 very involved minutes on the floor, Jerebko made sure that accounting for his presence will have to be on Ty Lue’s whiteboard.MORE NEWS: 'I Don't Want To Be A Vigilante': Mikayla Miller's Mother Demands Justice At Hopkinton Rally