The Cleveland Cavaliers got off to a great start on Friday, opening up a double-digit lead against the Celtics six minutes into the game. They never looked back, executing on both sides of the floor en route to a 124-95 victory. The game set a record for the largest victory for a road team in Boston. LeBron James scored 21 points to set the tone in the first quarter, and finished with a line of 38/8/7 for the night.
“My impression of the fight? Shane’s gonna come out and hit Floyd in the mouth, and Floyd is gonna sprout a tail, grow wings, draw fangs and claws and turn into a Dragon in the ring; And he’ll start spittin’ fire balls.”
– Naazim Richardson, before the Mayweather-Mosley fight
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers got hit in the mouth hard on Monday. They couldn’t get stops on defense. They weren’t running their offense or making shots. LeBron was unusually passive. All of that led to the Cavaliers getting embarrassed on their home floor.
On Friday night, LeBron and the Cavaliers responded. LeBron knew what the stakes were, and he set the tone by playing aggressive and putting the Celtics in a hole right out of the gate. He looked for his mid-range jumper early and made every shot he got a look at, going 5-7 from outside the paint in the first quarter. When he got transition opportunities or saw that Boston’s help wasn’t in place, he went hard to the basket for the basket or free throws. At the end of the first quarter, LeBron had 21 points and the Celtics had 17.
A lot of times in the regular season, the rest of the Cavs would take their foot off the gas pedal when LeBron had a huge scoring start, particularly if he was doing it from outside. On Friday night, the Cavs matched LeBron’s intensity on both ends of the floor. Shaq looked for deep position early and got some points inside. Antawn Jamison made a runner or two, but most of his points came from going right to the front of the rim and accepting contact.
On defense, the Cavs played Anthony Parker well off of Rajon Rondo, packed the paint, and made Boston work for all of their baskets. Boston couldn’t hit a shot from outside, going 4-14 from outside the paint in the first quarter. Between LeBron going off, their shots not falling, and the whistles not going their way, Boston completely unraveled.
It was all downhill for the final three quarters. LeBron stayed in the game until there was 6:50 remaining in the second quarter; by that point, the Cavs were up 18. The Celtics started making some shots in the second and third quarters, but they couldn’t stop the Cavs from running a layup line and hitting nearly all of the outside shots they did end up taking.
By the time LeBron left the game with 5:40 left to play, the Cavs were up 30. A statement game. A rout. A massacre. An embarrassment. Call it what you will. The most important thing about game three is that it was a win. The Cavs have home-court advantage back, and have a great chance to pounce on Boston this Sunday and take a 3-1 lead back to the Q.
-LeBron James. Wow. He completely controlled the game from the opening tip. It wasn’t a timely scoring explosion or beautiful shot — it was LeBron completely and overwhelming the Celtics from start to finish.
After all the talk about the elbow, this might be as well as I’ve ever seen LeBron shoot from the outside. He lined it up, found space, and knocked it down like it was a layup. When the lane was open for a pass or a drive, he took it. But mostly he just went to the perimeter and drained shot after shot. There’s nothing any defense can do about that. Unreal. Absolutely unreal. When the team needed him to step up, he was completely dominant. That’s why he’s a two-time MVP.
-There’s Shaq! Deep position, strong finishes, went to the offensive glass aggressively. This is exactly what he needs to do when he’s out there. When you weigh 325 points, you should never be “settling” for shots.
-Gritty game for Jamison. His outside shot wasn’t on, but he did a great job of working off the ball and getting tough baskets inside en route to 20 points. And even though KG had his best shooting night of the series, Jamison made him get his baskets on post-ups and outside jumpers rather than layups. It’s fine to give up points, just not easy ones.
-Mo’s still waiting for that first three of the series, but boy did he make up for it by attacking off the dribble. I’m not sure why the offense isn’t getting him the shots he likes; that said, give props to Mo for putting his head down and going to the basket rather than try and force himself into the offense.
-AP and Delonte: 25 points on 9-11 shooting from the field. That’s huge. AP knocked down all three of his looks from deep, and Delonte couldn’t miss a pull-up jumper. I will say that I didn’t love the way Delonte was stopping the ball and settling for jumpers. Hard to argue with results, though.
-31-34 from the line! 31-34 from the line! 31-34 from the line!
Bullets of Randomness:
-Paul Pierce, you cannot score against LeBron. You are old, slow, and extremely crafty. LeBron is young, freakishly fast, and also crafty. It’s not going to work out. Please keep trying, though.
-Give Mo and company credit for chasing Ray Allen all night and preventing him from getting easy looks. The Celtics were waiting for the Cavs to get lazy and allow open looks from deep all game long, but it never happened. Great defensive effort on Friday night.
-Nate Robinson took 10 shots in 13 minutes.
Alright, that’s all for tonight. Great win, but remember it only counts for one game. The Celtics are a home win from tying this series up again. The Cavs didn’t listen to the people who said the sky was falling after game two; they can’t listen to the people who say they’re invincible now. There’s a lot of work to be done before this series is over. If the Cavs buckle down and play the full 48, they can do it. Until later, folks.