Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, a game I definitely watched, was one for the ages. Due to the absence of Isaiah Thomas and the fact that the first two games of the series were huge blowouts, some basketball fans may have ignored the game and spent last night doing laundry and watching old episodes of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia—I definitely did not do this; I watched the game—and they really missed out.
Obviously, the story of the game was the performance put on by Avery Bradley. Not only did he hit the game-winning shot, he controlled the contest from start to finish. There were so many moments in which he came up big right when his team needed him, like when he hit that jumper in the first half, and a layup at some point after that. And how about his defense? He disrupted so many Cavs possessions—all of which I remember vividly, because, again, I watched the game—that it’s impossible to even pick one standout moment to highlight in a blog post. If you didn’t see the game (I did), you’ll just have to take my word for it.
On the other side of the coin, LeBron James struggled. The King finished with just 11 points, six rebounds, and six assists. It’s hard to pin down what was wrong with James last night—I definitely have a few theories because I watched the game very closely—but there’s no denying his off night killed the Cavs. I’ve watched a lot of LeBron James playoff performances, and last night’s—which I absolutely saw, from beginning to end; I really cannot stress this enough—might have been the worst one. That moment in the second half when he missed that one shot was a perfect encapsulation of his rough night.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Marcus Smart’s performance. Talk about putting it all on the line. Big-time players make big-time plays, and Smart’s 27 points on 8-of-14 shooting was exactly what the Celtics needed to get back into this series. I’d argue that shot he hit at some point during the first 24 minutes of the game was the biggest he’s hit all year, because it set the tone early.
So now the Cavs lead the series 2-1 and the Celtics will get at least one more game in Boston. It’s too early to proclaim that the Celtics are back in this thing, but if they win Game 4, which I will also be watching very closely, we might have a series on our hands.