What a difference a game makes. 48 hours after one of the biggest beatdowns in NBA postseason history… a game where the Celtics NEVER led, were down 41 at HALTIME, and by as many as 50 overall, they go into last night’s Game 3, without their best player and leader, Isaiah Thomas, and were 17 point underdogs. An almost unheard of line for any NBA game, or team, much less a one seed! And sure enough, they go out and they play right to that line, falling behind by 21.
Good. Everyone in America was smelling sweep. And the sooner the better. Finish running these guys over, then back up over them a few times, end it, and get on to the trilogy and make us forget how horrible these playoffs have been.
Except no one bothered to tell any of this to the Celtics who were down 21 and should have been looking for a nice soft spot to lay down and die. Instead, of rolling over, they kept trying. And they wouldn’t give in, next thing you know, Marcus Smart’s going heat check. Jonas Jerebko came out of Witness Protection. And Avery Bradley caps the comeback with a game winning three ball to steal it from the Cavs:
Call it what you want: Celtic Pride. Cavalier Apathy. I’ll tell you what it was – pretty amazing that a team that got clowned in its own barn had the ability to get back off the mat after losing its best player and steal a win in the Q — a place that’s nearly impossible to win.
Now that I’ve given the Celtics come credit, let me take it away. Cleveland obviously has no business losing that game. No business letting these guys hang around, giving them a reason to believe and prolonging the inevitable. Up 21, at home, facing a team without its best player, they looked like they were going to run the Celtics right out of the gym, just as they did in Games 1 and 2. You have a boot on their throat, choke them out, rest, recover, do it again in Game 4 and get ready to defend your title against the Warriors. The Cavs should know better than this. LeBron should know better than this. But when the Celtics made that comeback, instead of saying, the last thing we should be doing is messing around with these guys, get on my back, I’ll get you there so we can all get the hell out of here, the King just disappears. He had one of his worst playoff games ever. And this during one of his greatest postseason tears ever. The guy finished with just 11 points, and only 3 in the second half when he made just 1 of 9 shots.
And there’s really no explanation for it other than to say, the guy just had a really bad night. It happens. Even to one of the best ever. And it’s not the first time it’s happened to LeBron and it won’t be the last.
And it wasn’t about any adjustment Boston made, or anything they did to him. He was just that bad.
Not only that bad on the floor, but almost as bad coming off it where he got hooked by a fan in his own building. …and then got into it with a local radio reporter not long thereafter:
Look…it’s just one game. He had just one bad night. And he was frustrated. But that guy, of all guys, should not be getting hooked by his own fans, and local media. Not at this juncture of his career.
Then again, credit where credit is due; and this is why before the series, I said I had way too much respect for the Celtics, and Isaiah Thomas, and Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge to say they would be swept. Sure, they’d lose in five, but no way can you sweep a proud team like that. So I’m staying with my prediction. But truth be told, it should have been a sweep. And if LeBron had shown up and handled his business, it would have been a sweep.