Cleveland, OH — And just like that, the Cleveland Cavaliers are back in the Eastern Conference Final avoiding the 0-3 hole that no NBA team has ever come back from.
The first quarter set the tone and the Cavs never looked back.
After taking a commanding 32-17 lead in the first, they would go on to win the final three quarters and earn their first series victory — with a final score of 116-86 — over the Boston Celtics.
It was the Cavs’ George Hill that ignited the fire for the home team on Saturday night when he opened the game with a strong drive through the key. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the opening block.
But the real difference for Cleveland: they actually looked like a team. Players other than Lebron James decided to suit up.
“We were really good [tonight],” James said. “We had our focus and offensively and defensively we made plays.”
During Game 1 and 2 in Boston, it was clear that James was carrying the Cavaliers on his back — but on Saturday night, the rest of the roster came out to play.
“I also have to inspire my teammates to be better,” he continued. “They answered the call tonight and they need to answer the phone another time on Monday.”
James still earned 27 points, 12 assists and five rebounds (as expected), but then five other players scored in the double digits to help glide past the Celtics in the most team-win this team has seen these playoffs.
Kyle Korver went perfect from the field and finished with 14 points, Kevin Love and Hill both ended with 13, J.R. Smith chipped in 11 and Tristan Thompson added 10 points — a vast difference from the first two games.
“I thought everybody came in and contributed in some way,” said Tyronn Lue, Cavaliers coach. “It was good for us to have everybody touch the basketball and play well.”
On top of that, the Cavs played a bit of defense tonight holding Boston to the lowest score they’ve had this year’s playoff run, shooting just 39% from the field and led by rookie Jayson Tatum’s 18 points.
The Cavs will try to even the series on Monday when they host Game 4 at the Quicken Loans Arena in one of the most important games this season (for both teams).
“They will be ready in Game 4,” James said of the Celtics in his postgame interview with ESPN’s Doris Burke. “[Celtics Coach Brad Stevens] will have his guys ready.”