Dribbles: For Cavs, first playoff loss earned

Sam Amico

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers' 111-108 stunner of a loss to the visiting Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday.

1. How do you go from beating a team by 44 points on their own floor to losing to that same team (minus its best player) on your own floor two nights later?

2. These Cavaliers, oh these Cavaliers. They can find a way.

3. Now, it's hard to get too overly disgusted. As LeBron James told the media, it's better to get a loss like this out of the way now. "I'm kind of glad it happened the way it did," he said. "We let our foot off the gas"

4. Of course, most Cavs fans would prefer their favorite team avoid losses like these entirely. It's much too close to the Finals. And it should have never happened. So why let it happen? That's the question the Cavs need to ask themselves.

5. It's hard to know where to begin. Maybe the third quarter, where the Cavs completely lost their poise after building the lead to 21 points. They had zero respect for the Celtics. They hardly behaved like champions.

6. And where was LeBron? For the first time in his career, he looked old. He finished with a measly 11 points -- and committed as many turnovers in the second half as he scored points (three apiece). James went just 1-of-8 shooting in the final 24 minutes.

7. But hey, it's LeBron. I think anyone who enjoyed the parade he and the Cavs delivered last June can give the man a pass. He was bad on this night. I bet he's pretty doggone good on the next.

8. James owned up to his performance. "I didn't have it," he told reporters.

9. Cavs guard Kyrie Irving put it this way: "We were served some humble pie. They hit us in the mouth and we got to do better."

10. Irving (29 points) and Kevin Love (28 points, 10 rebounds) put up great numbers, but were they winning numbers? I'm not so sure. Neither played very well defensively. But hey, let's admit, if LeBron had even brought his B-minus game, people would all be talking about how great Kyrie and Kevin played.

11. The Cavs took the second half off on defense. Probably because they were at home. They failed to close out on shooters -- with Marcus Smart's seven 3-pointers being the best example. Avery Bradley's game-winner at the end was another.

12. Yes, Celtics center Al Horford set an illegal screen on Tristan Thompson on the final play to free Bradley for the shot. But if you're going to blame one missed call on the Cavs' massive meltdown, well, I don't know what to tell you. Good luck with that.

13. Overall, Thompson (18 points, 13 boards) was magnificent. He kept fighting and fighting and trying to make plays just like he always does. Every coach wishes his or her players had Thompson's heart. He is invaluable with his hustle.

14. Meanwhile, no one thought the Celtics had a shot. Their defense was definitely better without injured star Isaiah Thomas. Horford worked the Cavs on the low block. The Celtics' bench outscored the Cavs, 32-9.

15. Basically, the reasons the Cavs lost this go on and on. And the Celtics do deserve some credit. But mostly, the Cavs did this to themselves.

16. The Cavs didn't play at their normal pace, especially in the final two quarters. It was way too slow of a game. The Celtics showed patience and poise. The Cavs sort of chucked it up too early in the shot clock.

17. This series was laughable. The Cavs owned it. They embarrassed the Celtics at home TWICE. They need to come out Tuesday and run over the opponent. They need to play like champs again. They need to make Boston's life miserable. James needs to return to the man who was averaging 34.8 points leading up to this game.

18. Perhaps the Cavs learned their lesson. You can't sleepwalk through the playoffs anymore. You did it against Indiana and it worked. The Celtics play with more pride than just about any team in the league. You had better wake up, man up and handle your business. You had better remind the world that you're the champs. Or if you're the Cavs, this series isn't going to end as quickly as it should.

19. Finally, the Cavs have a tendency to fall into bad habits. We saw it against the Pacers, we saw it in the regular season. They can beat Boston playing this way, eventually. But if it happens in the Finals, even just once, they are toast.