Game 4 between the teams is Sunday night and it will once again be crucial for New Orleans to pull out a win to give themselves a fighting chance when the series shifts back to the Bay.
Before Game 4, relive the Pelicans’ strong performance in Game 3 with the highlights below.
LeBron James is just messing around at this point.
James has hit several game-winners throughout his career, but maybe none have been so disrespectfully indifferent as the one to take a 3-0 series lead on Toronto.
After calling timeout following OG Anunoby’s game-tying 3-pointer, the Cavaliers opted to inbound the ball from their own end of the floor instead of advancing it past half-court. The decision allowed James to receive the ball and streak down the court, making it more difficult for the Raptors to trap him without leaving someone on the Cavaliers wide open.
Perhaps Toronto should have taken that risk because what ended up happening was incredibly demoralising.
James not only leapt off his wrong foot (left foot) while going left, he put up a one-handed floater from nine feet out that kissed off the glass and dropped in right in front of the Raptors bench as time expired.
The audacity to attempt a shot with such a high degree of difficulty in that moment was impressive in itself, let alone that James drained it while making it look like something he does with regularity.
“It is very difficult,” James said afterward with a smile. “Don’t try it at home.”
The LeBron-Michael Jordan debate over who is the greatest of all-time may never be settled, but James continues to build his playoff resume with clutch shots.
While Jordan was 5-of-11 with three buzzer-beaters in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime in his postseason career, James is now 7-of-15 with five buzzer-beaters, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
One of those buzzer-beaters for James came earlier in these playoffs when he nailed a 3-pointer to life the Cavaliers to a Game 5 win over the Indiana Pacers in the first round.
“I’ve been doing that since I was like six, seven, eight years old,” James said after adding his latest in Game 3 versus Toronto. “Maybe even before that. There’s a picture floating around of me beside a Little Tikes hoop with a saggy Pamper on and I was doing it back then and all the way up until now, at 33.
“Things that you dream about, that you get those opportunities and I’ve been fortunate enough to get a handful of those in some of the biggest moments in my career.”
James and the Cavaliers are now one win away from returning to the Eastern Conference Finals and have the opportunity to close out the series at home in Game 4.
Brad Stevens is lauded as a coaching savant, but his brilliance on the sideline can at times be more subtle than overwhelmingly obvious.
Boston took a practically insurmountable 3-0 lead in the second round series on the strength of Stevens’ late-game coaching, which included two beautiful play calls after timeouts.
The first came at the end of regulation when the Celtics were down by two with 26 seconds left.
With Philadelphia switching on all screens, Stevens drew up a play in which all five Boston players were near the 3-point line, leaving the paint wide open when Jaylen Brown set a back pick, only to dive to the basket where he received a lob and finished a contested layup.
Brad Stevens BRILLIANT End of Game SOB to tie the game: pic.twitter.com/hOdp2aNXRJ— Half Court Hoops (@HalfCourtHoops) May 5, 2018
The second crucial play call came with the Celtics down by one and 8.4 seconds left in overtime.
The 76ers switched on screens again, which Stevens capitalised on again by drawing Robert Covington onto Al Horford in the paint. Horford shielded Covington from the basket, caught the overhead lob and finished a point-blank look that would be the game-winner.
BRAD STEVENS GENIUS End of Game Again: pic.twitter.com/mgJnJlOlKZ— Half Court Hoops (@HalfCourtHoops) May 5, 2018
Afterward, Stevens’ players credited their coach’s ingenuity.
“Brad is a genius, man. Unbelievable,” Horford told ESPN immediately after Boston’s victory. “Sometimes he draws stuff up, and I look at it, I’m like [confused]. But Marcus [Morris] delivered it, great pass, I missed some shots that I normally make there, but I made that one, so it was good.”
Morris added: “That man Brad Stevens is a guru. He might have the best out-of-bounds plays I’ve ever seen. He called the switch [that got Horford on Covington] and knew it was going to happen.”
Stevens has deservedly earned credit for a multitude of reasons and his after-timeout plays are just one factor in why he’s been so successful as a coach.