“Some of the plays that we made, some of the plays that I made, I was like, ‘What are we doing?’ or ‘What could I have done better?’ But you figure out the next game and go forward”. That moment in the second half when he missed that one shot was a ideal encapsulation of his rough night.
The four-time MVP didn’t hide from his poor showing, telling reports, per Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver: “Me personally, I didn’t have it”. But me personally, I didn’t have it.
“One of my first text messages I got was from Isaiah”, Stevens said. Boston dropped a 117-104 decision as a four-point home underdog in Game 1 before getting embarrassed in a 130-86 defeat two nights later as a five-point home underdog. He has scored at least 30 in nine of 11 playoff games. You obviously hear people saying that it’s all about how you respond, and we don’t feel like people believed in us and counted us out, but that just put another chip on our shoulder, which I think is good.
Kyrie Irving paced the Cleveland offence with 29 points and Kevin Love added 28 points and 10 rebounds. Two players from the last two decades that have often been discussed with James among all-time greats are Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.
Stevens’ after timeout plays – known as ATOs – worked to perfection. In just his 5th career playoff start, Smart scored 27 points, shooting 7 for 10 from three.
James was about to walk into the interview room when a fan chastised him for scoring just 11 points. “So you can plan for a few, but then he might run something you’ve never seen before”. They came in and they played tough. They scrapped. They have a scrappy team. “You let a team like that grab momentum you nearly knew a shot like that was going in”.
It looked like the Warriors and Cavaliers might win their respective conferences with 12 straight wins, but only Golden State could make history.
But beyond James’ foul trouble, the Cavs were having other issues as the Celtics outplayed them at both ends while opening a 16-point lead.
As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series. We’re going to battle for the loose balls. He also had six turnovers.
Lue however shrugged off the off night on Monday as he prepared his team for Tuesday’s Game 4 in Cleveland.
Irving stayed on the floor for several seconds before sitting up and re-tying his left sneaker. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Marcus Smart’s performance. The 43 points Cleveland scored in the first quarter set a team postseason record for a quarter.
Stevens said Thomas told him he’s still sore and there is still significant inflammation in his hip.
James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.
His coach was defending him after the game, saying that everyone has a bad night occasionally. “He’s in good spirits”.
At this point, doctors are unsure whether Thomas will have to undergo said surgery. “So we’ve got to be a lot better, for sure”.