After looking outmatched in the first two contests in Boston, the Cavaliers resembled a different team on their home floor.
Here are five takeways from their impressive Game 3 victory.
Non-LeBron Cavaliers step up
In Game 2, LeBron James had a 42-point triple double and the Cavaliers lost by 13. In Game 3, James had 27 and Cleveland won by 30. It’s not mystery what changed when the Cavaliers returned home. The non-LeBron supporting cast rose to the occasion and outscored the Celtics 89-86, with seven players contributing at least eight points. As great as LeBron is, he can’t do it alone, so this type of balance is essential.
Difference in urgency
Whether it was the change in venue or the Cavaliers desperate to avoid a 3-0 series hole, Cleveland was clearly the more energetic team in Game 3. While Boston’s defensive intensity waned, the Cavaliers showed life on that end – especially LeBron – and were the aggressors all night. Getting into their half-court offence and running sets with greater pace may seem like a small detail, but it made all the difference for Cleveland.
LeBron's energy on defense was on a different level. Cavs also got into their offense earlier (at times), even off Boston makes. Just a better game. Difference b/w stagnant CLE and good CLE -- beyond making shots -- isn't rocket science.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) May 20, 2018
Thompson neutralises Horford
Tristan Thompson has a history of giving Al Horford problems and that match-up is once again tilting towards the Cavaliers favour in this series. Horford registered zero shots in the 31 possessions he was defended by Thompson in Game 3 – he drew a shooting foul and hit both free throws – and has now scored all of nine points for the series in 87 such possessions. Boston need Horford to be aggressive, but the Thompson effect is very real.
Brown fails to get going
Jaylen Brown has been a good barometer for the Celtics’ success in the playoffs, especially through three games in the conference finals. After dropping 23 points in each of the first two contests, he was held to just 10 in Game 3 and struggled with foul trouble. Cleveland clearly made it a point to limit Brown in the first quarter after he averaged 13.5 points in the first period in Boston, and the Celtics’ wing finished with one of his poorest performances in these playoffs.
Ty Lue said the Cavs shifted their defensive focus to slow Jaylen Brown in the first quarter.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) May 20, 2018
Cleveland’s 3-ball connects
Sometimes, it’s as simple as making shots. More than that obviously went into the Cavaliers’ Game 3 win, but their 3-point shooting turnaround was crucial. After hitting just 24.6 per cent of their 3s in Boston, Cleveland hit 17-of-34 triples at home. They also made 25-of-46 uncontested looks, compared to 35-of-99 in the first two games. A positive regression was expected, but if the Cavaliers shoot like this, watch out.
Everyone has been trying to figure out how the Boston Celtics have managed to get to this point, where they’re up 2-0 on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals despite having two of their best players sidelined to injuries.
Former player Metta World Peace, who won a title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010, said he’s not surprised to see how well Boston are doing, pointing to their talented youth and coach Brad Stevens.
Watch the video below to see Metta World Peace give his stamp of approval to this emerging Celtics team.
While there are signs pointing to the Phoenix Suns taking Luka Doncic with the number one overall selection in the NBA draft, general manager Ryan McDonough revealed the team is open to trading the pick for the right price.
Phoenix won the draft lottery to receive the top selection after going a league-worst 21-61 this season.
Doncic is widely considered one of the top prospects, with the 19-year-old having gained valuable professional experience in the EuroLeague.
On Friday, the Real Madrid star led the Spanish club to a 92-83 win over CSKA Moscow in the EuroLeague Final Four, producing 16 points, seven rebounds and two assists to help secure his side a spot in the championship.
Phoenix already have a link with Doncic after hiring new head coach Igor Kokoskov, who coached the Slovenian national when the pair captured the gold medal at last year’s European championship.
Though Kokoskov’s hiring and Doncic’s pedigree may make his status as the top pick a foregone conclusion, McDonough pumped the brakes by suggesting the prized asset isn’t untouchable.
“We’re certainly open to that. We’ll consider it,” McDonough said of a potential trade in an interview on ESPN2. “Obviously, we’ll have more information closer to the draft than we do today, after we go through the workout process and the interview process and we get the medical physicals. So we’re open to that.
“I think if you look around the NBA, as far as the veteran players, there are probably a few players we’d consider trading the pick for, not… just pick for player No. 1. So it’ll be a busy month for us.”
Leonard’s saga with the Spurs has been well documented after he sat out most of the season amidst a mysterious injury situation.
Towns may not be as obvious as a target, but rumours have recently swirled that the big man has been unhappy in Minnesota with the current state of the Timberwolves.
Adding fuel to speculation fire was Suns guard Devin Booker, who posted a picture of Towns in his Phoenix jersey on social media on Friday. Booker and Towns were teammates in their lone college season at Kentucky.
There is slight doubt that Doncic will enter the draft, although his declaration may be nothing more of a formality.
Following the EuroLeauge Final Four victory on Friday, Doncic sounded like he was ready to head to the NBA, saying: “To say goodbye with [a Euroleague title] would be very special.”
A day before the game, Doncic was more non-committal, saying: “I don’t know if these are my last two games in Europe.
“I am still weighing my options and I will make that decision at the end of the season.”
According to various reports, Doncic could have some leverage on where he gets drafted because he’s still under contract with Real Madrid and could ultimately remain in Europe.