It’s hard to look at the last night’s game and take away any positives from it. The Cavs blew a 21 point lead and this was arguably LeBron’s worst post-season performance of his career. The team as a whole just looked lazy and uninterested for most of the game. They were really hoping for the Celtics to roll over after the Isaiah Thomas injury news. Even though this was one of the worst playoff losses in the last 20 years, I was still able to pull away couple positives after the game.
1. Kevin Love followed up Games 1 and 2 with another great performance.
Ty Lue had said he wanted to get Kevin Love more involved during this series and he is following through with it. Kevin Love has become a focal point on way more offensive possessions than before. Last night, he was able to showcase every facet of his game. Love started off super hot from beyond the three point line in the first half where he hit seven three pointers. This was one short of the first half record set by Vince Carter back in 2001.
Love finished the game with 28 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and even added three blocks. Normally, this would’ve been plenty for the team to get the job done and bring home a win. Last night’s game was an exception. I believe he will be able to keep this up this high level of play against this Celtics team. Hopefully, it will carry over into the finals as well.
2. Kyrie got out of his shooting slump.
Kyrie was able to get out of the shooting slump he had been in for most of the playoffs. His assist numbers have been much improved already, so it was nice to see him shooting as well as we’ve seen over the last couple of seasons. With LeBron struggling all game, you could see he was trying to have Kyrie be the one to take over late. Even though that didn’t work out in the end, seeing Kyrie’s shot improve was a good sign.
3. Cavs got to eat a slice of humble pie.
While we’re on the topic of Kyrie Irving, this was an interesting quote from him.
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) May 22, 2017
Hopefully, everyone on the team will take this loss personal and it will bring them back to reality. This Celtics team is not going to give up and they’re going to have to continue to give maximum effort to close them out. If this loss serves as a wake up call for them, it will end up having a positive impact as they try to repeat as champions.
4. JR Smith played like the JR of last season.
It’s fair to say JR had not been himself coming off the injury late in the season. In Game 3 though, he looked like the JR we saw in last year’s playoffs. He finished with 13 points, his average during the playoffs last season and hit a huge three pointer to tie the game with 36 seconds left. This would be big for the Cavs if JR is able to build on this for the rest of the playoffs. They need JR to be playing at a high level if they want to take down the Warriors.
5. Tristan Thompson is a monster.
The Celtics’ biggest hole on their roster is their lack of size down low. Al Horford has been having a great playoffs so far, but he’s unable to match up on defense with Tristan Thompson’s size. Tristan looked like the only one playing with any sort of intensity for the Cavs last night. He had a team leading 13 rebounds and snatched seven offensive boards. Again, on a normal night, if TT scores 18 and has 13 rebounds the Cavs are going to win. It’s just impossible to close out a game when your best player goes scoreless and is completely ineffective for the entire 4th quarter.
The biggest surprise from Tristan last night though was his free throw shooting. He went 12-15 from the free throw line. He’s been shooting above 60% from the line in these playoffs, which is a vast improvement from the regular season. By Tristan shooting this well from the line, it effectively takes away the other teams ability to employ the “Hack-A-Tristan” strategy. His greatly improved free throw shooting is another area that could be huge for the Cavs heading forward in the playoffs.
Losing Game 3 against the Celtics shouldn’t change the dynamic of the series or lower the expectations of fans. They’re still the best team in the East, LeBron is still the greatest player in the NBA right now and they still have a shot to beat the Warriors in the finals. I’m extremely confident that this was just a fluke game and they will close out the series in five games.
Follow the author: @jacoby407
Photo Cred: Cleveland.com
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