BOSTON -- The Cavaliers crushed the Celtics 124-95 in Game 3 Friday to not only reclaim home-court advantage with a 2-1 lead in the series, but also create doubts that Boston can extend this conference semifinal beyond Game 5 Tuesday in Cleveland -- the beating was that overwhelming.
In the second minute, he went straight up with an errant jumper, then made his next six shots -- mainly off the dribble -- to personally outscore Boston 16-15 out of the gate while the Cavs seized a 27-15 advantage. His fast start withstood a hard Flagrant Foul 1 in transition from
The Cavs responded to that foul with a 10-0 run, and James would go on to set a Cavs postseason record for points in a quarter (21), as Cleveland jumped on Boston for a 36-17 lead at the end of the first.
And that was the game. "We were aggressive on both ends of the floor for 48 minutes,'' said Cleveland coach
"You knew he was going to grab the ball and he was going to attack all game, especially early to get his guys involved,'' said Boston coach Doc Rivers. "I didn't think we gave any resistance. I mean, he was playing HORSE.''
Boston never inched closer than 15 points in the second, never closer than 20 in the third, never closer than 23 in the fourth. "I think rest helped me, rest helped all of us,'' said James. "We was able to put (together) a complete game for the first time in this playoffs. It was a whole 360 of what we did in Game 2.''
James finished with 38 points on 22 shots (2 of 3 from three) with eight rebounds and seven assists. He was overtly aggressive, chasing down the Celtics in transition, trying to block every shot within reach and personally outscoring Boston's Big Three as
Combined with the 45 points James scored in Game 7 here two years ago, he has now scored 83 over his last two playoff games in Boston. "It started with me tonight,'' said James, "and everyone saw my aggression and just took advantage of it.''
It was thought the three-day break would help the elderly Celtics regenerate for Game 3, but the free time backfired on them. "We had two lousy practices,'' said Rivers. "I thought our preparation was (like) pulling nails, and so that was the result.''
"They took the fight to us early and we didn't respond to it,'' said Pierce. "It's embarrassing when you lose at home like that.''
As a result of diverting Rondo away from the lane in the early going, he started out an inefficient 3-for-9 while Pierce, Allen and Garnett were a neglected 2-for-10 over the lost opening quarter. "We did a good job of making him shoot jump shots tonight,'' said Cavs forward
Rondo finished with an impressive 18 points and eight assists, but he had no impact on the game. Rivers said the defense on Rondo didn't amount to a change of strategy so much as an improvement in execution. "(Parker) has been on him for two games, so I don't know if that's actually an adjustment,'' said Rivers. "Offensively we didn't have a lot of movement. We've got to make a concerted effort to continue to go to Kevin, and we didn't do that.''
No Celtic grabbed more than two rebounds in the opening half as Boston was beaten in every way imaginable. Overall, the Cavs outrebounded their gracious hosts 34-14 on the defensive board. Rondo led Boston with five rebounds, while Boston big men Garnett,
But Pierce didn't want to hear any complaining after the Cavs earned 34 free throw attempts (and uncharacteristically made 31 of them) to Boston's 29. "We fouled, they didn't,'' he said. "They were aggressive, we weren't.''
Pierce is averaging 12.7 points and shooting 13-of-42 (31.0%) from the field in this series. "He's got to get more involved,'' said Rivers. "He has got to play better.''
While Pierce sounded optimistic of an improvement in his scoring, he added that the Celtics face bigger issues going into Game 4 here Sunday. "It doesn't matter what I do offensively,'' he said. "I could have scored 30 tonight and we probably would have lost the game, the way we played defense.''