Cavaliers want to get physical in Game 3
LeBron James scored more than 40 points four times in the first 11 games of the 2018 NBA playoffs and the Cavaliers won every time.
James scored 42 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on May 15 and the Cavaliers didn’t win. The Boston Celtics prevailed, 107-94.
The conclusion from practice on May 17 in Independence: All eight or nine players who get into Game 3 on May 19 at Quicken Loans Arena are going have to do their fair share of rowing the boat or the Cavaliers are going to capsize quickly.
“We’re playing too slow,” guard J.R. Smith said. “We’re making LeBron play hero ball, which is tough to do, especially in the Eastern Conference finals. We’ve got to help. And with that said, we have to give him the opportunity for us to make him feel confident to give us the ball so we can make the right plays. We’ve got to help him and he’s got to help us.”
James grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out 12 assists to go with his 42 points as the Cavaliers were falling behind, 0-2, in the best-of-seven series. Forward Kevin Love scored 22 points. That means the seven other Cavaliers that had significant playing time combined for 30 points.
Smith was 0-for-7 shooting in 27 minutes. He admitted it is difficult to get into a rhythm if he doesn’t catch fire quickly. He scored only four points on 2-of-9 shooting in the Game 1 loss.
“Just make shots,” Smith said. “That’s all that we can do. I mean, obviously we can do more on the defensive side, but our main focus right now is to make shots when we get them. When we don’t have them, try to make the next best play. Right now ‘Bron and Kevin are working overly hard, trying to carry us, and we’ve just got to step up and do our job.”
Getting open shots is the chicken-and-egg riddle of playoff basketball. Does it start with good defense, or does it start with crisp passing until the ball finds an open shooter? It starts with defense, Coach Tyronn Lue said, and that starts with being more physical —
“gooning it up,” to use Lue’s expression. He said the Celtics gooned it up on the Cavaliers in the first two games of the series.
“It’s not a bad thing to goon it up,” Lue said. “Like taking hard fouls and being physical. They’re playing playoff basketball.
“Be physical. Don’t let them run as freely. I thought we did it for spurts (in Game 2), but we’ve got to do it for a full 48 minutes.”
The Cavaliers have to win four times in the next five games — a daunting task. But they’ve been in this situation before. They were down 0-2 to the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, won Game 3 at home, lost Game 4 at The Q and then won the next three games to become NBA champions. They had to win twice in Oakland to do that.
“We know what it takes,” said Lue, the coach of that
championship team. “They (the Celtics) won two games on their home floor. They’ve been playing well all playoffs. They’re 9-0 on their floor. We understand that, but now we’ve got to come home and take care of our business on our home floor.
“Just because we’re home, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to play well. We’ve got to come out and just take the game. We’ve got to put a full 48-minute game together, which I know we can. Our fans will probably be ready to go, and we’ll be ready to go, also.”
The Celtics are undefeated at TD Garden in Boston in the 2018 playoffs, but they are 1-4 on the road.
Game 4 is 8:30 p.m. May 21 at the Q. The Cavaliers will have to win at least one game in Boston to rally and win the Eastern Conference championship a fourth straight year.
Celtics guard Jaylen Brown tries to drive against J.R. Smith on May 17 in Boston.